Northwoods Spotlight - Min-Aqua Bats July 24Submitted: 07/24/2013
Story By Marisa Silvas

MINOCQUA - The Northwoods provides many summer activities to enjoy outdoors. But not all of them include free entertainment... Three nights a week, you can head to Lake Minocqua and take in a waterski show.

Andrew McFerrin "We're a 100% amateur waterski club," Andrew McFerrin explains. He's one of the members of the Min-Aqua Bats.

Another member, Elin Wahman adds, "It's been one of the best things I've done in my life."

Since 1950, the Min-Aqua Bats have been entertaining locals and tourists with a top notch ski show. The performers range from pre-teens to 25 years old and it's clear they love what they do.

"It's like acrobatics on waterskis and it's an incredible thing to watch," says Anna Tedstrom also from the Min-Aqua Bats.

Mary Beyer is a fan.

"It's nice enjoyment and it's wonderful to see what the kids do out there."

For many of the skiers, being a Min-aqua bat runs in the family.

Elin "My mom was a Min-Aqua Bat," Elin Wahman proudly proclaims.

Connor Tedstrom adds, "My grandma was a Min-Aqua Bat in the '50's."

Some just grew up liking the idea of performing.

Christian Wahman says, "I definitely thought that these people watersking were so cool and I wanted to be one of them when I was older."

Anna Tedstrom adds, "I used to watch the shows and be like, oh my god, that's the girl on top of the pyramid, I want to be her."

They're known as the world's oldest amateur waterski team... and they perform a wide variety of exciting acts.

The shows here attract quite a crowd and the skiers become local celebrities.

"It's fun to walk downtown with a bunch of our Min-Aqua Bat friends and they're like, oh those are the Min-Aqua Bats," Anna Tedstrom explains.

Christian Wahman says, "It's great to have all the little kids come down and ask for autographs after the show."

And this talented group shows no signs of slowing down.

Chris Coleman is a former Min-Aqua Bat.

"I'm hopeful that the club continues and that they can maintain the heritage that we've built."

Connor Tedstrom says, "There's a lot of traditions here and we've just got to keep it going for another 64 years."

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MERRILL - This weekend Northcentral Technical College hosted its fourth annual Fire and EMS University for firefighters across Wisconsin.

It provides training on firefighting and EMS techniques at the Public Safety Center of Excellence in Merrill.

In a simulation training exercise, firefighters have their hoods covering their face so they couldn't see anything when they entered a basement. They had to feel a fire hose and use teamwork to get around and save a dummy.

Firefighters from all over Wisconsin can come to the all-day event. They came to refresh their skills, teach and learn new techniques.

"We put out some classes that are very interesting and not run every day and if it applies to their department they'll send people," said Dean of the Public Safety Division of Northcentral Technical College Doug Jennings.

The school keeps adding other training tools as well. Just this year they added more training features, such as a simulator that allows law enforcement to practice driving trucks, squad cars and EMS vehicles.

On Saturday the students also trained with the aerial ladder.

"We are the only fire department in Lincoln County with an aerial ladder," said Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone. "And so most of our firefighters have to operate our aerial ladder. And so we felt this truck operation aerial ladder operations is a great class for them to come and see."

UST Fire Apparatus brought a new aerial ladder truck for the students to practice with, and teachers from southern Wisconsin and St. Louis, Mo., also came to help coach.

Firefighters say they want to constantly re-educate themselves.

"It's great to get the extra practice," said Dean Johnson from the Town of Wausau Fire Department.

Northcentral Technical College also offers semester schedule curricula for law enforcement and fire science. 

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MILWAUKEE - A published report says unauthorized improvements have been made to a footpath on state land that a donor to Gov. Scott Walker has been trying to buy.

A spokesman for business executive Elizabeth Uihlein acknowledged that workers at her adjoining property may have cleaned up the trail slightly.

But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1Z18WU8 ) reports those who have seen the trail say the improvements are significant.

Uihlein is seeking to buy 1.75 acres along Rest Lake, where the footpath is located. But a tentative deal with the Department of Natural Resources was put on hold after critics raised questions.

A DNR spokesman says the agency inspected the site on Thursday and found an "established trail." He declined to say whether the department had talked to Uihlein or her representatives.

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MERRILL - Merrill residents might have heard a lot of music in town today.

Merrill High School hosted the Merrill Marching Invitational. Three high school marching bands took over the football field at Merrill High School Sunday.

Antigo, D.C. Everest, and Merrill high schools all showcased their musical creativity.

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RHINELANDER - Harvest Hoedown started Saturday at noon at the Woodpecker Bar and Grill in Rhinelander.

The event featured a hay maze, horse-drawn carriage rides, food, and live music all afternoon.

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NEKOOSA - People in Nekoosa could go back in time this weekend.

Volunteers at Pointe Basse recreated a historical camp that portrayed the lives of people from the 1700s and early 1800s.

Volunteers from all across the U.S. had a piece of history to share.

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EAGLE RIVER - Eagle River hosted its 36th annual Cranberry Fest during October's first weekend.

Organizers say the weather this year brought in many more visitors.

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THREE LAKES - A Northwoods priest may never experience a mass as large as he did this past Sunday. It was Pope Francis' final mass in the U.S. during his trip. Organizers predicted nearly 500,000 people would attend.

Father Bala of Three Lakes was able to make it to Philadelphia for the mass. He was one of a small group from the Northwoods who made the trip, and he said it felt like an extremely personal gathering.

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