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Restoring a piece of Northwoods historySubmitted: 05/28/2017
WOODRUFF - The 6th Annual Woodruff Memorial Car Show featured cars of all makes and models. But this year, there was one item showcased that is rooted in the Northwoods.

"I'm here showing our 1936 Sunflower utility launch boat which was actually used as a guide boat back in the 30s," said boat owner Don Bergman.


The Sunflower Boat Works Factory was established in 1914 in Lake Tomahawk.

"I was always in love with these," said Bergman. 

Bergman became interested in Sunflower boats as a child.

"I used to go to Fabian Woodzicka's workshop, who owned Sunflower Boat Works, and listened to his stories about building boats," said Bergman. 

When Bergman first spotted the boat, named "Elsa Dee," at a Minocqua boat show about six years ago, it wasn't much.

"I'd describe as firewood, a pile of firewood on a trailer," said Bergman.

But Bergman turned it into a labor of love.

"I worked on it for three years, gutting it, tearing it down, taking it apart," said Bergman.

Now, with a little help from Oneida Boat Works in Harshaw with the more highly skilled work, the boat is back to its former glory.

"This wood is 80-year-old wood you're looking at…. The motor is an original motor, came with the boat, the steering wheel, all the hardware… this is almost all original," said Bergman

Bergman says the wooden boat hobby needs new blood, and he thinks showcasing at a car show will go a long way to help that.

"You see more young people here than you do at an antique boat show, this exposure is great for our hobby so I'm going to support this and help it grow if I can," said Bergman. 

In the meantime, Elsa Dee is still chugging along.

"You'll see this on Lake Tomahawk, on the lake it was built on 80 years ago, you'll see it out there three, four times a week," said Bergman.

And Bergman is a very proud owner.

"I feel very privileged to have this boat," said Bergman.



Story By: Dakota Sherek

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