Country Fest regulars talk about camping tradition
Story By Lyndsey Stemm
RHINELANDER - Every year, Hodag Country Fest takes over Rhinelander for a weekend in the middle of July. For many of the tens of thousands of country festers, it's a weeklong event.
"I had a good time so I came back," says Betty Garrow, from Rome, WI.
That was 23 years ago. Now Garrow has one of the most coveted camping spots on the Hodag Country Fest fairgrounds.
"He says, 'I married her for that'. I brought him up here and then we got married the next year," says Garrow.
"No, we would have gotten married anyway. But you gotta tell these guys up here that I married her for this spot," says Weston Garrow.
Campsite claiming can be a cutthroat business. It's how the group next to the Garrow's became their long-time Hodag neighbors.
"Oh yeah, since I moved here they've been across from us," says Betty Garrow.
"Apparently two women who had these sites before, they forgot to call in in the time allotted. We happened to trade in our old spots for these. We met them one time out on the road. They were staring at the sites and said, 'those used to be our sites'," says Al Sadowski, from Stevens Point.
These Happy Hodagers obviously come for more than the four day weekend of music. They start camping the Saturday before.
"I think it's the people. It isn't so much the entertainers because they're all good," says Betty Garrow.
"All the camaraderie, all the fun with people," says Weston Garrow.
"We probably enjoy the beginning of the week best because the concert isn't really on, and you get more time to visit and catch up on old times," says Sadowski.
This group bonded so well they've even been to each other's children's weddings. And they have advice for this year's first-timers.
"Just have fun, I guess. Do whatever you want to do," says Betty Garrow.
"You'll see something you're never going to believe. Just take it as is and run, before you lose your eyesight," says Weston Garrow.
"Don't get too smashed, maintain your soberism, and just have a good time," says Sadowski.
Advice it might be wise to follow. These seasoned vets would know better than anybody the recipe for a "Happy Hodag".
RHINELANDER - A Norther Lights Tour scientist explained Rhinelander's role in potato breeding and genetic studies on Wednesday night.
Every year about 50,000 varieties of potato are tested to see if they could be commercially sold.
Only about one in a 100,000 will become a named potato variety.
"The Rhinelander agriculture research station on Highway C is really where that process starts by making the cross pollination, raising those plants for the first time in a greenhouse and then evaluating them in the fields there for a couple years," said UW- Madison Assistant Professor of Horticulture Jeffry Endelman.
WESCOTT - The body of a man who jumped in a Shawano County lake to rescue his 10-year-son has been recovered.
The body was found after authorities resumed a search of Shawano Lake early Thursday.
Shawano County Sheriff Adam Bieber says the boy was tubing on the lake without a lifejacket Wednesday and lost his grip while trying to get back on a pontoon boat. Bieber says the boy's father jumped in the water, and the boat carrying the boy's grandfather and 9-year-old brother drifted away.
Sheriff's officials found the 10-year-old boy in the water near a buoy.
MADISON - A convicted sex offender from Rhinelander can keep pictures of children he cut out of magazines.
A state appeals court dismissed new charges against Albert Chagnon Thursday.
Prosecutors charged the 33-year-old last year with 23 counts of intentionally photographing a minor without consent. Chagnon was about to be released from prison when a guard discovered a notebook in his pants containing photographs of fully-clothed young girls cut out of magazines or newspapers, including the Lakeland Times.
Chagnon argued that the charges should be dismissed because he didn't take the photographs. The 4th District Court of Appeals agreed with him Thursday, saying state law doesn't cover Chagnon's conduct.
WAUSAU - The Wausau School District will use a large grant to renovate the school's planetarium. The current Wausau School District planetarium was built in the late 1960s, and it needs some upgrades.
The school just received a $230 thousand grant to complete the project. It is expected to take two years to complete.
"The first year is running the software, showing it, using it in our classrooms in our curriculum," said planetarium director Chris Janssen. "Finding out, 'is this going to work 100% of the time?' Year two then is going to be the actual, physical structure upgrades. The dome will get replaced, seats, cement contractors will come in and tilt the floor and so-on."
The planetarium can hold 54 people, and organizers are hoping to keep it that way.
"For curricular needs, when you have two classes come in, and the classes are about 26 kids each, you gotta have that sweet spot of about 50-54 seats. When you tilt the floor, you lose some space, so I really want to try and keep it at about 50 seats."
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