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A Northwoods Tradition, Made Right HereSubmitted: 03/20/2013
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

A Northwoods Tradition, Made Right Here
IRONWOOD - You probably recognize the name "Stormy Kromer".

You probably also know what the recognizable hats look like from seeing them around the Northwoods.

But do you know where and how they're made?

George "Stormy" Kromer was a semi-pro baseball player and railroad worker in Kaukauna in the early 1900s.

But old Stormy had a problem.

"He worked on the Chicago-Northwestern line for a long time, and he kept losing his hats in the wind, riding the trains. He brought a baseball hat home and asked Ida to sew a band around the hat, and the Stormy Kromer was born," says Gina Thorsen, the Stormy Kromer Vice President.

Before long, they took off, and were being mass produced in Milwaukee.

But that business was about to die in the early 2000s.

To save it, an Upper Peninsula family bought the brand and moved the production to Ironwood.

"We find that people who have hats almost think of it as a special club. When you see someone else wearing a hat, you might walk by and say, 'nice hat'," Thorsen says.

Since the hats started being made in Ironwood, they've gained even more popularity.

That's allowed the company to branch out into womens' Stormy Kromers, as well as other cold weather apparel.

That success has made it a staple of the community's economy.

"Here in Ironwood, it's a small town. Industries have left. Businesses have closed. To us it's really important to be able to provide jobs here with benefits and to treat them well and to provide them a place where they can spend their career," Thorsen says.

About 150 people work for the company in Ironwood.

They make hats that have become a symbol for people in the Northwoods and U.P.

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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 08/18/2017

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:


We take our Long Summer Weekend to Vilas County where we show you a garden in Land O'Lakes overflowing with produce - and a strong sense of community.

We talk to participants and organizers of the National Championship Musky Open in Eagle River.

And Friday Night Blitz kicks off another season tonight at the end of Newswatch 12 at 10 with football scores from high school games all across North Central Wisconsin as well as highlights from the following games:

Superior at Merrill

Berlin at Antigo

Hayward at Lakeland

Abbotsford at Crandon


That will be tonight on Friday Night Blitz at the end of Newswatch 12 at 10.

We'll bring you all this and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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MANITOWISH WATERS - Manitowish Waters would certainly look different today without its cranberry marshes.

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VILAS COUNTY - Vilas County prides itself on its miles of trails. Whether it's cross country skiing, walking or biking, there are plenty of options. But one of the longest is the Heart of Vilas County bike system.

"We have 47 miles of paved bike trails. I don't think that any place in the state can match that, it's awesome," said Mary Vangrinsven.

Those nearly 50 miles make up the Heart of Vilas County Bike Trail.

"It's like being on vacation every day of my life," said Vangrinsven.

When the trail started nearly 20 years ago, bikers, walkers and runners were very excited.
"I was pretty amazed by how much use it was getting. I wondered if this was just a fad or whether it was something real," said Vangrinsven.

But it was real. The finished trail goes through four different communities.

"It's been a great addition to what you can do in Vilas County," said Ken Wiesner.

Bikers can go from St. Germain to Manitowish Waters and hit up Sayner and Boulder Junction along the way.

"In my opinion, it's really changed the local economy for the better," said Wiesner.

Every Wednesday, a group of nearly 50 people bike along a part of the Heart of Vilas County Bike trail.

"I think we're really finding, especially in the areas up here, that we have very active adults," said Vangrinsven.

Wiesner and his wife Barb joined the group because they have a cabin in Vilas County.

"We've made a lot of new friends over the past 10 years, primarily in the biking," said Wiesner.

Whether you do it with a group of friends, or by yourself, there's also something to enjoy along the trail.

There are shops along the trail to rent bikes if you don't have one. If you would like more information on the trail, click on the link below.

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MANITOWISH WATERS - Northwoods tourism thrives off of fishing, hunting, and lake life.

Sometimes, people want to take a piece of that Northwoods culture home with them.

You might not recognize this sign in its beginning stages.

Mike Patek makes these handmade signs under the name "Vintage Cabin Signs" in Manitowish Waters. He controls everything from the cut to the paint.

His signs go all over the country. They're based off of Northwoods vacation images from the 30s and 40s; think old fishing magazines, travel posters, and postcards.

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SHAWANO COUNTY - One person died when an explosion leveled a home in Shawano county early Thursday morning.

The Shawano County Sheriff's Department says 54 year old Diane Pickett was found dead in the remains of the house.

A second person who lived at the house was out of town when the explosion happened.

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MADISON - Update:  8/18/17,  5:10pm

The Wisconsin state Assembly has passed a $3 billion tax break package for Taiwan-based electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group.

The bipartisan vote Thursday now sends the bill to the Senate, where it must also pass in identical form before it goes to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

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LAWRENCE, WI - A man accused of driving a vehicle that struck and killed a mother and daughter as they walked along a road in Lawrence has been charged in the case.

Authorities say 46-year-old David Meyer, of De Pere, is charged with two counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. He is being held on $50,000 cash bond.

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