20 years of work for Iola Winter Carnival
By Jane Myhra
Jerry Thompson is the grand marshal of the 2017 Iola Winter Carnival.
He was chosen for his past and present contributions to the Iola Winter Sports Club.
“Jerry is an ambassador for our club and is remembered with respect in skiing circles,” said IWSC member Phil Johnsrud.
Thompson’s past contributions include serving on the IWSC board for over 20 years, running the Youth Ski Program and coaching the high school ski team for many years, organizing two state high school ski meets at IWSC and bringing skijoring (skiing with dogs) to Iola.
“A few years ago I heard about skijoring, and decided to give it a try with my lab, Ruby,” Thompson said. “We entered a couple of races, just for fun.”
This led to starting the skijoring race at IWSC as an addition to the Iola Winter Carnival weekend. Thompson and his wife, Chris, organize the annual skijoring event, which will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4.
In 1984, the Thompsons built a house on Trout Creek Road in the town of New Hope, where they raised their three children.
Thompson has been a member of the Iola Winter Sports Club since 1991. He and his family joined IWSC because “we liked to ski and the trails at Iola are only four miles from home,” he said.
“Back then, the ski trails were pretty narrow and Phil Johnsrud was grooming with one very old snowmobile,” Thompson recalled.
The Thompsons started skiing in 1975, mostly to get some exercise in the winter.
“Classical skiing was the only technique back then,” Thompson said. “A few years later, skate skiing or freestyle skiing became popular. We tried it and loved it.”
As time went on, he became a little more competitive and has since competed in 23 American Birkiebieners.
“Some of these I skied competitively and some, probably my favorites, were skied with my daughter and sons and brothers,” he said.
All three of the Thompson children have been involved in skiing.
Daughter Heidi was the Iola Winter Carnival queen in 2002, and was the driving force behind the start of the high school cross country ski team in 1997. Heidi and her brothers, Ben and Nick, skied on the high school team all through high school.
“I coached the ski team for eight years with the help of my wife Chris,” Thompson said. “During that time, we took a second place and third place at the Wisconsin State Cross Country Ski Race. We also hosted two state meets at the Iola Winter Sports Club during that time.”
“The Iola Winter Sports Club has been a big part of our life over the years as it has made our whole family look forward to the winter months,” he said.
Thompson noted that Johnsrud has been a major part of his family’s attraction to IWSC.
“He has and still does spend most of his spare time maintaining and making big improvements to the ski hill,” he said. “From expanded trails, to additional land purchases, to lit trails, to the 60-meter jump, piston bully groomer, the ski hill has evolved thanks to Phil to become a premier cross country ski destination for many skiers throughout the state. I have always been in awe at his dedication and vision.”
“What a wonderful asset to our community,” Thompson said.