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Polka Dot Express is heading this way

Mayor joins cast of water ski spectacular on Aug. 17


by: VERN UYETAKE - The Polka Dot Express is ready to provide beauty and water ski thrills on Aug. 17. In front, from left, are Shawn Engelberg, Janet Van Rysselberghe, Lita Grigg and Ruthie White. In back is Sandi Swinford.When Lita Grigg was asked to perform at the first Antique Water Ski Spectacular four years ago, she thought it was the silliest question she had ever heard.

In 2013, Grigg is the director of the show that could be the most fun part of one of the most fun summer weekends in Lake Oswego. It is set for Aug. 17 at 3 p.m. at the Oswego Heritage House Collector Car and Classic Boat Show on Oswego Lake’s Lakewood Bay .

Sounding sort of like an Ed Sullivan on water skis, Grigg promises to have a really big show, a veritable big top on water.

“I let my creative juices carry me away,” Grigg said. “We’re going to have seven additional acts this year.”

The program will include a pyramid, a daring skier using tennis shoes instead of water skis; a ballet; a clown; and Grigg’s big coup, Lake Oswego Mayor Kent Studebaker.

Asked how this remarkable circumstance came about, Studebaker said, “Jude Graham (the great persuader) sent me an email saying she heard that I could water-ski and asked me if I would be in the water show. I reluctantly agreed.”

Providing a whirlwind finish will be the Polka Dot Express, seven classic beauties wearing classic Esther Williams swimsuits and using classic water skis.

One thing there won’t be is Gary Lord as the water ski comedic bunny. It was a difficult decision for Lord, who had a Hamlet-like decision to make: “To ski or not to ski? That is the question.”

Lord ultimately decided to keep his bunny head in storage this year.

“I’m going to let someone else have the chance to show their stuff,” said Lord. “But I’ll be there cheering them on.”

Lord will be missed, but with the mayor, the clown and all of the other acts there will be an abundance of fun for everyone. Especially for the members of the Polka Dot Express.

It is hard to believe that Grigg (who, as all good Lake Oswegans know, was Miss Oregon as Lita Schiel in 1966) was originally so dubious about performing in a water ski show, which she had not done since the 1960s.

“Jude Graham (director of the Oswego Heritage House) asked me to ski four years ago,” said Grigg. “I told her no way, I was too old. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would do it. But Jude kept slowly nudging me and sure enough I fell in love with water-skiing all over again.

“Water-skiing has been in my blood since childhood, and all of the other women on the team feel the same passion as I do. This has developed such a bond of friendship between us.”

Grigg praised Ruthie White, a member of the Portland Water Spectacular Show Team, for being a big spark for the Express. White will be performing in several routines, including a ballet number with Grigg, and serving as a choreographer.

“I went water-skiing for the first time on a November day that was pouring rain and freezing,” White said. “That was in 1987. I’ve been hooked ever since.”

White now performs in water ski shows throughout the summer. Her enthusiasm is already running high for the Aug. 17 Lake Oswego show.

“We’ll have pyramids, barefoot skiing, swivel skiing, which is my passion, a chorus line and a new act that I’ve been working on,” White said. “This is not just water-skiing, it’s show skiing.”

The conclusion of the show promises to be sensational, with the flag-waving Polka Dot Express churning waves over Oswego Lake’s Lakewood Bay toward the big, cheering crowd gathered at the docks by State Street.

Yet preparing for this great moment has been a challenge.

“Our first practice was awful,” Grigg said. “We all fell into the water. We were a big tangle of ropes, seaweed and polka-dot bathing suits.

“But our next practice went perfectly. It did, it did!”

Members of the Polka Dot Express include Grigg, White, Shawn Engelberg, Janet Van Rysselberghe, Karen Destefano and Sandi Swinford.

For more information, go to oswegoheritage.org. The show will be held on Lakewood Bay and can be viewed from Sundeleaf Plaza Park.

Cars and boats coming Aug. 18

While water-skiers will dominate on Aug. 17, the cars and boats will roll in on Aug. 18 for the 14th annual Oswego Heritage Council Collector Car and Classic Boat Show in Lake Oswego.

About 300 classic cars will be on display on Aug. 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., along with motorcycles and on-land classic boats at George Rogers Park. More classic boats will be on show at Lakewood Bay and the Foothills Park dock. Thirty-five classic crafts from the past will be on view.

The arrival of PT658, the only World War II PT boat still operating, will kick off the weekend Aug. 17 at 10 a.m. at the Foothills Park dock on the Willamette River.




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