From tiki bars and bonfires pulled along on four wheelers, to a rodeo bull and local residents dressed up in crazy costumes, Andy Fazendin has seen it all—well, probably. There’s always this year. As a longtime sponsor of the Chilly Open on Lake Minnetonka’s Wayzata Bay, Fazendin, of Fazendin Realtors, looks forward to this year’s incarnation of the annual event, which has become a mainstay celebration for the community and even some out-of-state attendees. “It’s a great way for people to get out of their houses and onto the lake and see people,” Fazendin says. “I look at it as a break from winter.”
The 33rd annual Chilly Open, presented by the Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce (GWACC), begins with Cinema and Skates from 6 to 9 p.m. on February 10. This year’s movie is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the beloved 1971 musical starring the late Gene Wilder. The film will be shown in the heated 19th Hole hospitality tent, which will be sweetly decorated a la Candyland, the perennial board game favorite for the younger set. (No word if Princess Lolly, Mr. Mint or Gramma Nutt will make an appearance.)
The evening will also include free ice skating under the lights on the bay’s lagoon. “The ice is like glass because it’s so shallow,” says Jon Reyerson, event chair and GWACC board member. This family activity drew nearly 400 attendees last year. “It has grown year after year, and we are expecting even larger attendance this year,” says Brooke Beyer, director of community events and marketing for GWACC.
To say the Chilly Open’s golf tournament, set for February 11 on Wayzata Bay, is popular is an understatement. “We turn away hundreds of golfers every year,” Reyerson says. Beyer adds, “Because it is growing in popularity year after year, we are adding a third tee time this year.” Golfers can tee up at 10 a.m., noon or 2 p.m. Participants must pre-register ($40 per golfer) at wayzatachillyopen.com. Registrants will receive a packet, which includes their tee time, rules, tips and information about check-in. Proceeds support local businesses and the chamber’s events throughout the year. Each player will receive two tennis balls to use, and are reminded to bring their own “club,” whether that’s a traditional golf club, a hockey stick, a T-ball bat or other suitable substitute. Remember—fun is the first order of the day.
Three nine-hole courses will be plowed out, complete with doglegs, hazards and fairways. A variety of local businesses have queued up to sponsor each hole—and they take their mandate to personalize their golf holes very, very seriously. There are, after all, bragging rights on the line. Reyerson recalls the lengths some sponsors have gone to in an effort to make their station stand out. In previous years, Fazendin Realtors used eco-friendly dye to color the ice to give a spirited nod to Legos; one hole featured an on-ice dance club; an underwater camera offered a live feed of the activity below the ice; and some sponsors also fed participants’ need for college football updates by featuring television screens, showing some of the day’s best matchups on the gridiron.
While beautiful Lake Minnetonka, arguably the area’s most popular neighbor, is a major draw for participants, the Chilly Open’s annual theme is also a major attraction, bringing out the silly in participants and hosts alike, who dress in costumes and deck out sponsored golf holes to coordinate with the theme. “Sponsors, golfers, everyone really gets into it,” Beyer says. This year the theme, Favorite Games, will surely provide ample inspiration. (We’ll give it a try: If they use their Cranium and don’t Scrabble, participants won’t be Sorry they went to the Trouble of organizing costumes, even something a little Taboo.) “That’s one of the biggest highlights of the season, is to see what teams come up with,” Reyerson says. “I have all the faith in the world our golfers will come up with epic costumes this year.”
Snoga (yoga on the snow) returns to this year’s lineup. The free activity, led by KARE 11 anchor Bryan Piatt, begins at 9 a.m. on February 11. “That was a huge hit,” Reyerson says of snoga’s premier showing at last year’s Chilly Open. Whether striking a pose or taking a swing, yogis, golfers and spectators are encouraged to participate in the chili contest, featuring contributions from 12 local restaurants in the 19th Hole tent. Awards will be given for Golfers’ Choice and from a panel of three judges. Last year’s bragging rights went to judges’ pick District Fresh Kitchen, golfers’ choice Peoples Organic, and hottest McCormick’s Pub and Restaurant. Other food vendors will be on hand, including Jimmy John’s and Gina Maria’s Pizza, and warm cookies will also be served. Live music will be provided by a local band in the 19th Hole tent.
From activities on the ice to food and music in the hospitality tent, there is something for everyone. Visitors are encouraged to take an “if you can’t beat it, join it” attitude about winter. “Last year’s event sold out at 1,200 golfers,” Beyer says. “With spectators and sponsors, we estimated over 1,800 people out on the ice total.” Reyerson says organizers hope to see attendance grow this year. “It’s such an incredibly unique event that draws new people every year, but you still have the strong base that come every year,” he says. Some of those in attendance make the trek from other parts of the country. Reyerson says some regulars hail from Texas and Washington, for example. “People make it a destination to fly back,” he says. For the Chilly Open uninitiated, Reyerson says, “You’ve got to try something that no one else in the country does,” he says. “No one can touch something as Minnesotan as this.”
Wayzata Chilly Open