Rock Aqua Jays planning ‘exciting’ season, Fourth of July festivities
IF YOU GO
What: Independence Day on the Rock hosted by the Rock Aqua Jays
When: Monday, July 4, starting at noon.
Where: Traxler Park, downtown Janesville.
To donate: Admission to the Fourth of July events will be free, but donations to help pay for the fireworks display can be made online at rockaquajays.com.
JANESVILLE Two words describe the Rock Aqua Jays 2011 season.
“Exciting and exhausting,” said Joel Shapiro, president.
In addition to performing twice-weekly water ski shows Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, the local club will host two tournaments, help organize the city’s Fourth of July festivities, celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary and send a delegation to compete in China.
“This is an unusually busy and special year,” Shapiro said.
The Aqua Jays will perform their first water ski show of the season at 7 p.m. Sunday.
A Memorial Day show is planned for 1 p.m. Monday, Shapiro said.
The performances this summer are centered on a “Back to the Future” theme under the guidance of Dave Rezin.
“Dave is a great person, with exceptional leadership skills, a good motivator and veteran skier who has been show director at least three times before,’’ Shapiro said.
A delegation from the Aqua Jays and other area water skiers will travel June 1-14 to the Sichuan province in China to compete in the first International Water Show Ski Tournament.
The Aqua Jays in 1999 were first amateur American water ski show team to perform and compete in the Peoples Republic of China. This is their fifth invitation to compete, Shapiro said.
The Aqua Jays will host the Mercury Marine Open Water Ski Show Tournament on Saturday and Sunday, June 25-26.
“There are 13 teams competing and we’ve got a couple teams—Badgerland and Beaver Dam—who have never competed at this tournament,” Shapiro said.
“The Mercury Open is a tuneup. It gives people an idea where they are at that time and what they need to do to take it that next step or two in preparation for the state, national tournaments,” he said
The Aqua Jays will travel to Wisconsin Rapids on July 21-24 to compete in the Wisconsin State /Regional Water Ski Show Tournament.
They will host the National Water Ski Show Tournament from Friday through Sunday, Aug. 12-14. The event is expected to attract teams from throughout the country and thousands of people to Traxler Park.
“When we are able to host tournaments, we make a little bit of money, and area businesses reap the benefits of hundreds of visitors for the Mercury tournament and thousands for the national tournament,” Shapiro said.
The Aqua Jays will celebrate their 50th anniversary July 1-4. While some activities are for current and past members only, the Saturday, July 2, alumni show and Monday, July 4, open house are open to the public.
“We’ll have some equipment—skis and ropes—on display, let people climb in our boats, sit in the driver’s seat and take pictures. It’ll be as interactive as we can possibly make it without jeopardizing our equipment,’’ Shapiro said.
The ski team hopes high water is not an issue this summer.
“The constant flood events and high water certainly take a toll on our finances. And with six flood events in the last seven years, it’s really starting to catch up with us,” he said.
Compounding the problem is a reduction of support from sponsors because of the recession, he said.
Shapiro said the Aqua Jays try to never lose sight that the club exists to perform and provide community support.
“We’ve been here for 50 years and hope to be here for another 50,’’ he said.
Rock Aqua Jays to host fireworks and Fourth of July festivities
Rock Aqua Jays organizers said feedback was so positive after the ski club hosted the city’s Fourth of July festivities in 2010 that the team will do it again in 2011.
“For the most part, the feedback was spectacular, positive,’’ said Joel Shapiro, club president.
Although the club tried to keep it simple last year, they will simplify Independence Day on the Rock even more this year, he said.
“We want to start activities a bit later in the day … with a spectator garden tractor pull. We also cut out a few things but put some original plans back into place,’’ Shapiro said.
Although the day’s schedule has not been finalized, activities planned so far include:
-- A ski show.
-- A beer tent.
-- Live music.
-- An Idol contest.
-- An anything that floats race.
-- Inflatable jump toys for kids.
-- Taste of Janesville, featuring food vendors and an expanded area with picnic tables and bigger tents for parents to sit down and eat while watching their children play on the inflatables.
“It’s free admission, and parking will be free,” Shapiro said.
“Those who can afford it and find it in their heart to make a donation to the fireworks can donate online,’’ he said.
As long as the Aqua Jays continue to get support, they will continue to improve the fireworks, he said.
“We’re adding a minute or two to the overall length of the display and a little bit more bang in the finale. So we’re hoping to raise $17,500 to pay for the fireworks and some of the additional expense that goes along with having them,’’ Shapiro said.
About 6,000 people attended last year’s Fourth of July event.
“We’re not trying to compete with Freedom Fest or with anybody else’s fireworks,” Shapiro said. “We’re simply continuing the tradition of fireworks in our community on Independence Day in Traxler Park.’’