Sarasota Ski-A-Rees ramp up their movie tribute show for national competition this Saturday.
The Sarasota Ski-A-Rees will try for a national championship this weekend with a water skiing show that doubles as a movie tribute.
It’s called “Star Wars: The Skiquel.”
Costumed stormtroopers and rebels race across the water. Princesses form skiing pyramids and ballet lines. Special effects include smoke, fog machines and water cannons.
There’s even music — live music — played by cast members.
“People love it,” says Bobby Brunner, 17. “It’s weird. You’re watching a ski show and all of a sudden people come out with instruments. We play the cantina band song from the first ‘Star Wars.’ “
Brunner worries more about his ski jumps than his saxophone solos. When he isn’t busy with the Ski-A-Rees, he’s drum major of the Kiltie Band at Riverview High School.
His brother and sister also perform with the Ski-A-Rees. His dad is a boat driver who helps out on pyramids. His mom is the show director.
Sherri Brunner grew up with Ski-A-Rees. She’s been on all four Sarasota teams that have competed in national championship competitions.
“I was on the first team in ’79 — I was a kid then,” she says. “And then ’92, ’94 and 1998 — it’s been 19 years since we went to nationals. It’s a big deal.”
The Ski-A-Rees won a regional championship in June to become one of 14 teams to qualify for the National Water Ski Show Championships on the Rock River in Rockville, Illinois. The 86-member team will travel with two docks, nine boats and 225 skis.
For two years, the team has been training new skiers, practicing new stunts and adding new polish to the “Star Wars” program.
“It’s a ski show and stage show,” says Lance Robbins, a skier and former show director. “Melded into one.”
The Sarasota ski team, founded in 1957, is the second-oldest in the country. The original logo for the team featured a cartoon stingray, which helps explain the odd name. What was going to be the Ski-A-Rays became the Ski-A-Rees.
It sounded better.
The ski team used to perform along the Sarasota bayfront, then moved to City Island. Small foot bridges connect the clubhouse to the rest of the island.
“When you cross the bridge,” says a poster, “lose the worries, the stress and, most importantly, the bad attitude! We are here to ski our butts off, hang out with family and friends, and HAVE FUN!”
The Ski-A-Rees once had more than 100 members, but…