Vilas County tourism thrives in 2012Submitted: 06/18/2013
Story By Lauren Stephenson

BOULDER JUNCTION - Usually when you watch the news, you hear about how bad the economy is.

Jobs are down, home sales are sluggish, and people aren't spending money.

But one Northwoods county stands out.

Tourism spending went up a full 10% in Vilas County in 2012.

Both small business owners and Vilas County's Tourism and Publicity Department say they're thriving because they're working together.

John and Sue Altschwager manage the White Birch Village Resort.

When the economy collapsed in 2008, most of their returning guests shortened their vacations.

The Altschwagers had to find new ways to bring in visitors.

"The first step obviously was become active in our local chambers of commerce. And participate in the activities and participate in town, which hadn't happened a lot in the past," John Altschwager said.

They also revamped their website, and joined Facebook.

Going to sporting shows and promoting their winter ice fishing packages also proved to be a success.

"We tend to find that once we get people here, get people to the area, and they see what's offered, we got them," Altschwager said.

They also get new customers by word of mouth.

One of their most loyal customers,Robert Kurzweil, says he's introduced over 30 people to the resort.

"My wife and I come in the spring and in the fall, and then the whole family in July. And there's roughly 38 of us, all family, friends, neighbors. It's wonderful. We have a lot of fun."

Altschwager says it's up to all business owners to bring the tourism industry back.

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LAKE TOMAHAWK - In the back room of Todd Ahrensdorf's butcher shop this week, you'll find him steadily cleaning deer.  The Lake Tomahawk butcher has steady, but not overwhelming, business.

"Got enough work to keep us busy," Ahrensdorf said.

For nearly three decades, Ahrensdorf has ridden the wave every gun-deer season, processing anywhere from about 75 deer this year up to 500 in years past.

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MADISON - Republican lawmakers are circulating a bill that would scale back the water bodies that could be designated special natural areas.

Currently, the Department of Natural Resources' board can designate a number of water bodies as areas of special natural resource interest where construction projects require permits. The types of water bodies include trout streams; surface waters identified as an outstanding or exceptional resource water; waters that contain endangered or threatened species; wild rice waters; wild or scenic rivers; and ecologically significant coastal wetlands.

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WAUSAU - The 400 Block in Wausau looks a little more like Christmas today. City workers put up a Christmas tree on one of the corners downtown.

The tree came from a different part of the city, near Third Avenue and Spruce Street. Garlands already decorate many lampposts in downtown Wausau.

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RHINELANDER - Rhinelander voters will decide in February whether to give the school more money.

The School District of Rhinelander will try to pass a referendum.

It would cost about $5 million each year for the next three years.

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MADISON - One of the last members of Gov. Scott Walker's administration who has been with him since first taking office in 2011 is leaving for the private sector.

Former Walker spokesman and current Department of Administration communications director Cullen Werwie said Monday he is leaving his post in January. Werwie says he plans to find a job in the private sector.

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MERRILL - Merrill hopes that having snowmobiles zipping through town this winter will provide an economic boost for the city. 

This year, the city council approved ATV, UTV, and snowmobile routes in town Those vehicles will share city streets with cars in many areas.

Allowing people to use those alternate modes of transportation could convince more winter tourists to stop in Merrill instead of traveling somewhere farther north to shop.

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Bergman Family Tree Farm closesSubmitted: 11/30/2015

RHINELANDER - Normally at this time of year, families would be making their way through the Bergman Family Tree Farm to pick out that perfect Christmas tree.

"People like to come and take their kids out there on sleds. We have sleds that they can use. A lot of them like that. Yeah, they'd come out here even in the rain. We'd always have candy canes," said owner Peter Bergman.

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