By Chris Shaffer

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota is the birthplace of water skiing, so it only makes sense that there are a good number of water ski clubs around the state.

But which club is the favorite of WCCO viewers? Chris Shaffer takes us to New London, where water skiing is really a family affair.

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At just 45 miles in length, the “middle fork” of the Crow River is perhaps least significant of the three.

Yet, it is slack waters practically encompass the central Minnesota town of New London, creating a scene almost akin to a Norman Rockwell scene.

It is a place where kids still ride their bikes to the local swimming hole. And on Friday nights, folks from near and far come to the postage stamp-sized Neer Park to watch the best show in town.

The Little Crow Ski Team performs its weekly waterski show, filled with amazing displays of beauty and balance, daredevil stunts and death-defying jumps. Mid-summer, they may draw as many as 2,000 fans. But these skiers are not some pros from out of town.

Little Crow Ski Team (credit: CBS)

“Really, it’s a family activity, it’s a family kind of a club,” said Stuart Giere, the club’s vice president.

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Half the size of other waterski clubs, these are mostly friends, neighbors, fathers, mothers, daughters and sons from the area. The club headquarters is located in what was an old fertilizer factory. Inside is 40 years of ski show history.

“Big picture here from 1998, when we won the national championship,” Giere said

This place has a feel as if someone crossed a surf shop with the back stage of a playhouse.

“There’s comedy and there’s stage acts going on to fill in between the acts and bring a total theme to it,” he said.

But before the show goes on, it’s practice, practice, practice — as much as three nights a week. And with 50 skiers, three boats and a dozen different acts to rehearse, herding wet cats might be an easier proposition for show director Andrew Welter.

“We just chalk it up and re-row it and go again,” Welter said.

For this sport, you need a mixture of strength, balance and sheer courage. But the work does not seem to bother this family-based club.

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Next week, the Little Crow Ski Team will hold two shows: one Thursday and one Friday. They expect big crowds, so go online and get tickets ahead of time.

Chris Shaffer