Northwoods Spotlight - Dirt Track Racing July 31Submitted: 07/31/2013
Story By Joe Dufek

EAGLE RIVER - Summer in the Northwoods for many folks means baseball, fishing, and vacation. For several, it can also mean racing.

Several days a week hundreds of area drivers racing for trophies and glory. Eagle River Speedway is one of the tracks in the Northwoods. Rhinelander's Jered Cech grew up watched his dad compete in drag racing. It motivated him to get a car and burn rubber.

"To be honest, I finally was able to get the money to race," Cech explains. "You can pay anywhere from $3500 to $35,000 for a car. This is closer to $20,000. The cost is high, but it's also cost effective."

It's not just the adults. Brian Retzlaff's son Parker also races. Cost can be an issue. But some of the lessons he's learning isn't just about racing.

"He loves it and it keeps in active," says Brian. "It keeps him from doing stuff he shouldn't be doing."

Depending on the class, these cars can go between 60 and 100 miles per hour. Joe Dufek had the chance to try one of these out on the track.

Joe didn't go very fast on the slippery track - averaging around 40 miles per hour.

The sport seems to be very strong in the Northwoods. It's thanks in part to a unique code shared by some of the drivers.

"It's the only sport I know where you might help someone, and they could turn around and beat you," says Bob Kleinschmidt of Arbor Vitae.

"It's a lot safer than people think," Retzlaff adds. "They have everything the NASCAR guys do. Hans devise. Fire suit. It's pretty safe for (his son Parker)."

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BOULDER JUNCTION - Nearby Fire Departments often rely on each other when they need extra man power. 

On Saturday firefighters from around the Northwoods came together as one. 
"It's vital to have that community bond between the fire departments," said Arbor Vitae Fire and Rescue Chief Mike VanMeter.

The bond between local departments led to a rare training opportunity. 

"Being able to share an opportunity like this is vital," said Boulder Junction Fire Department Chief Matthew Reuss. 

A donated house in Boulder Junction was lit on fire so that the fire departments could practice structure training.  

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RHINELANDER - We all have Tylenol and other medicines in our cabinets at home, but what do you do with them when they expire?

Saturday, local officials helped people properly dispose of those unwanted medicines as part of Wisconsin's Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

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MINOCQUA - Every year thousands of kids go hungry. 

On Saturday nearly 600 volunteers from the Northwoods decided to help feed some of those children. 

The "Food for Kidz" organization, invited people to Lakeland Union High School, to help package non- perishable goods.

 The packages will be donated worldwide and to nearby food pantries.

Within the past eight years volunteers have packaged one million meals.

 Last year was the first year the organization started donating to local food pantries. 

This year volunteers will give 30,000 meals to the Northwoods community.

"It's just the recurring exuberance of the people that come in and do the packing we have many, repeat people that come year after year," said "Food for Kidz" Co-chairman John Breiten. 

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RICE LAKE - The Merrill football team doesn't feel it got the respect it deserved when WIAA playoff brackets came out last weekend. The Bluejays shared a Great Northern Conference championship.

But they were pinned to a number 8 seed, the lowest in the bracket, and travel to face top-seeded Rice Lake in a Division 3 Level 1 game Friday night.

Recent history doesn't favor Merrill in the playoffs. It has lost six straight playoff openers, dating to 2009.

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RHINELANDER - A simple grooming process many people take for granted helps keeps John honest with himself.

"You can't think too far ahead, at least that's the situation I find myself in," John said.

Convicted of drunk driving seven times, John -- who Newswatch 12 is only identifying by his first name -- faced a harsh reality when he ended up in prison after three arrests in just 13 months.

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WAUSAU - People often leave unused prescriptions in their cabinets at home. But Wisconsin's Attorney General hopes you turn those prescriptions in Saturday to help solve a growing problem.

October 22 is Wisconsin's Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

Attorney General Brad Schimel said more people die from accidental drug overdoses in Wisconsin than from car crashes.

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MINOCQUA - By the time most of us finish breakfast, we already start planning what to eat for lunch.

For some kids all around the world, that next meal sometimes never comes.

The Food for Kidz Minocqua committee will lend a helping hand to change that Saturday morning.

Lakeland Union High School's common area will transform into a full-blown assembly line.

Food for Kidz volunteers will pour and pack ingredients into plastic bags.

The goal is 175,000 packed meals.

Food for Kidz needs more volunteers by tomorrow to meet that goal.

"If you haven't experienced this, come out and try it and you'll go away with just a great feeling," said Food for Kidz co-chair John Breiten.

Kids and adults of all ages are welcome to walk in to volunteer.

The food packages will be shipped off to anywhere from Honduras to Mozambique.

Some special meals will be set aside and sent to local communities in the Northwoods.

"It's just a great, fun community event. I think the kids especially take something away that they are giving beyond themselves," said Food for Kidz sponsor and Lakeland Union High School Spanish teacher Karen Roerich.

Walk-in volunteers are welcome to attend either packing shift tomorrow morning.

The first shift is from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The second shift is from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

If you can't make it out to Lakeland Union High School Saturday, donations are always welcome.

Call John Breiten at 715-686-7570 for more info.

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