SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Catfish Bay in Sioux Falls has been home to The Greatest Show on H2O for nearly three decades.
The all-volunteer water ski team features nearly 50 performers of all ages, ranging from children to older adults.
Jim Bruns created Catfish Bay and opened the 25-acre water ski park in 1994 with one goal in mind.
“Building youth, strengthening families, creating leaders with the greatest show on H2O, so I tell people half of what we’re doing out here is putting on a kicking water ski show, the other half is building people,” Catfish Bay President & Founder Jim Bruns said.
Bruns calls himself a full-time volunteer. Another 20-30 people donate their time behind the scenes, while dozens of performers show off their skills out on the water.
“Most of our actors when they join don’t have a lot of skiing skills, so we have to actually train them and build them up and to do that takes all sorts of equipment and people and time on the water,” Bruns said.
That’s why Catfish Bay leans on volunteers.
“Boat gas, insurance, equipment and all sorts of different things. I can tell a story about sinking a boat last week with a $25,000 engine. Doesn’t do well on the pocket book when those things happen,” Bruns said.
Bruns uses events like Ice Fish Fest and Camp OnAqua to help support the water ski show.
Beth Bruggeman is the camp and show director, and all-around performer.
“The swivel skiing, I do the ballet line, I do doubles and trios, I climb the pyramids, I just go wherever they need somebody to go,” Catfish Bay camp and show director Beth Bruggeman said.
The 22-year-old got her start at Catfish Bay nearly a decade ago through Camp OnAqua.
“I was out at camp and they had tryouts for the team. It was the first time I had ever water skied in my life was at the camp, so I fell in love with it there and I’ve been here ever since,” Bruggeman said.
The camp teaches kids how to ski, while the counselors learn to lead.
“If they screw up out at Catfish Bay they’re going to get wet, they screw up at a job they’re going to get fired, so there’s a lot of fun learning that goes on. We have a lot of ways to learn things out here and really just grow,” Bruns said.
“It’s been a really cool opportunity for me. I’ve learned a lot of leadership skills, water ski skills, and just a lot of life lessons,” Bruggeman said.
28 performers have grown into professional skiers over the past 28 years at Catfish Bay, including Jeremiah Newman.
“It has affected my life so much that I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for the water skiing world,” former professional water skier Jeremiah Newman said.
Newman comes from a fishing family, but tagged along with a friend to a water ski club in Sioux Falls in 1991.
“Literally the first day, the first time I was at the lake, around that world with those people, and I was just in love. I knew it was going to become something very important to me and be a passion,” Newman said.
He was a professional skier for eleven years. Today, Newman has an 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter who are part of the show at Catfish Bay.
“To be honest, I love to coach, that’s really where my passion is helping the younger generation learn the stuff that I had to learn and try and make it a little easier for them to learn because I went through a lot of crashes and a lot of hard knocks to learn some of the stuff that I learned,” Newman said.
Newman says his daughter wants to be an actress thanks to performing at Catfish Bay. Jeremiah says he struggled with confidence growing up, but found it on the water.
“This place, having the mentors I had growing up as a teenager, helped me overcome those circumstances that I had as a younger age. Now that I’m older and looking at these kids and now I’m becoming a mentor, it still teaches me. I’m still learning as an adult I’m still learning from the kids as I teach them, so I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Newman said.
Not everyone enjoys success at Catfish Bay.
“He always seems to fail, but his motto is dream big, never give up,” Bruns said.
Catfish Bay has been producing original content since day one and featuring the character Norman for more than a decade, including this year’s show, When Pigs Fly.
“This year, Norman has decided to be a farmer. South Dakota is a farming community, so he bought .0005 acres back in our parking lot to be a farmer and our announcer has told Norman he can be part of the show when pigs fly,” Bruns said.
Bruns says it just might happen, but you’ll have to come out to the show and see for yourself.
As for the future of Catfish Bay…
“I see Catfish Bay here for many, many more years. I see families coming and going with our team as they grow. I see thousands of people coming out to watch our show over the year. I see a lot of smiles happening at Catfish Bay,” Bruns said.
Catfish Bay is hosting a water ski show every Friday night through Labor Day weekend.
Click HERE for the complete schedule and ticket information.