RHINELANDER - Big-name country bands travel to Rhinelander from far away for Hodag Country Fest.
But one local band doesn't have to travel far at all for their Hodag debut.
Take a little punk, some bluegrass, and a whole lot of country and you get the Ditchrunners.
"We like to call it 'Honkey-tonk Guttergrass.' But people say it's kind of punk-countryish, whatever it is. It's our own original thing. We're not trying to be like anybody else we're just doing what we do," says Douglas Bredlau, The Ditchrunners' lead singer.
The Stevens Point band came in first place at one of several Hodag Pick-Off competitions in Wisconsin.
Now they get to play on the main stage of Hodag Country Fest.
"It's a real trip because I know what a big deal it is. I know what a huge event it is in Rhinelander. And I'm going to have a bunch of friends that are going to be there that have been going to Hodag for years, and I'm just really excited to get the chance to play for the hometown crowd," adds Bob Weigandt, The Ditchrunners' mandolin player.
Weigandt grew up in Rhinelander.
Ditchrunner's founder Douglas "Buckshot" Bredlau grew up in Park Falls.
Their debut at Hodag Country Fest will also be a competition.
Bands that won regional Hodag Pick-Offs will compete for the title of Wisconsin State Country Band Champion.
"We are rooted in the tradition of country music and we're kind of trying to bring that back a little bit in the world of pop country I guess," says Bredlau.
When The Ditchrunners perform at Hodag Fest on Friday they'll also pre-release their new full-length album.
"Squirrel Lake up by Minocqua, we spent three days out on an island just recording all day, every day for three straight days," says Alex Dalnodar, The Ditchrunners' guitarist.
It's the band's first album with a record label.
You'll be able to buy it July 16th, the same day they perform at the Rhinelander Ice Arena with Buckcherry.
"It's actually a great family and I love these guys more than anybody. It's been a real good time and it's going to get a lot better. I know that," Bredlau says.
Wisconsin court to decide on testing drunk drivers
MADISON - The Wisconsin Supreme Court is set to decide whether police can legally draw suspected drunken drivers' blood without a warrant or driver consent.
The court said it would hear three drunken driving cases, two of which involved a homicide. That announcement came nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a Missouri case that could call into question Wisconsin's law.
Wisconsin since 1993 has granted police authority to draw drunken driving suspects' blood without a warrant or consent.
About 5,000 people refused to comply with police tests in 2011 and 2012.
The eventual rulings in the three cases are expected to clarify how law enforcement can gather evidence in some Wisconsin drunken driving cases.
MADISON - A federal appeals court has upheld Republican Gov. Scott Walker's public union restrictions.
The restrictions stripped most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights. Two unions representing city of Madison and Dane County public workers filed a lawsuit in 2011 alleging the law violated their right to freely assembly and equal protection.
U.S. District Judge William Conley found the restrictions constitutional in September. A three-judge appeals panel affirmed Conley's ruling Friday, saying the U.S. Constitution doesn't require the state to maintain policies that allow certain associations to thrive.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen calls the ruling ``a victory for the law and for Wisconsin taxpayers.''
An attorney for the unions tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he needs to talk to his clients before deciding whether to appeal.
MERRILL - When you think of movies you probably think of Hollywood, but one man from Northcentral Wisconsin is bringing his feature film to the local screen.
Wausau’s Jarrod Crooks not only makes movies, but he also stars in them.
His latest film, "Dispatched" is based off the Elvis Presley movie, “Girl Happy,” says filmmaker Jarrod Crooks. “My character Jake is sent to go watch my bosses daughter while she’s on vacation with a friend. Then an old enemy is kind of after him while he’s on vacation, so some things happen.”
Crooks made, "Dispatched" on a $5,000 budget and it’s full of romance, action, and comedy.
“My buddy would joke with me, ‘why don’t you just pick one genre man and then just go with it'," says Crooks. "I’m like because I want to make this movie how I want to make It'." "I actually like romantic comedies, I think they’re kind of fun, and I think they’re cute. I like action films because I’m a guy, and I like comedy because Jim Carey is great.”
Crooks is only 28 and has already made 4 feature films. His passion started when he was 12 years old.
“I went over to my friend’s house and he had a video camera. I was like oh we should make a movie, and at that time I was really into, “Wishbone,” says Crooks.
“We’d always remake our own literature pieces. Then I saw my first Jackie Chan movie and I’m like, alright it’s settled we’re doing action films from now on," says Crooks. “From then on it was just a love affair with the filmmaking.”
His latest film will be shown at the Cosmo Theatre in Merrill on Saturday at 5pm.
“The fact that I’m bringing it to central Wisconsin is great because this is where I grew up," says Crooks. "All my family and friends get to see it, so I’m very excited about that and you get to see yourself on the big screen what’s better than that.”
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