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Northwoods Spotlight - Snowmobile Derby recap Jan 22Submitted: 01/23/2014
Story By Marisa Silvas


EAGLE RIVER - Tomahawk's Nick Van Strydonk won the world championship in 2012. He knows
competing at Eagle River Derby Track is special.

"You can't put it into words, Van Strydonk said. "It's its own special feeling.
We do it for the fans. We're not out here to make money. We're not out here to
prove anything to the guys we race against. We're out here for the fans, we
like to put on a show and have fun."

Lance Rutledge is an amatuer sno cross racer from Rhinelander.

"The adrenaline rush you get, especially in that last lap, it all comes into
play," Rutledge adds.


Speed, adversity and triumph, Derby Weekend had it all - including talented
local drivers.

It wasn't just the guys tearing it up. 17 year old Sabrina Blanchet from Quebec
set out to become the first female to qualify for the final race, but she had a
tough weekend.

"It's disappointing but I'm not mad or upset," Blanchet explains. "The team
does a lot of work to give me the best machine they can. We'll come back and
try to do it all over again."

Another tradition that dates back to the early years is the Derby Queen.
Northland Pines hockey star Jessica Roach won that honor for 2014.

"It's definitely awesome being part of the derby," Roach said. "We're a big
hockey town but the Derby is what people look forward to in the winter."

The sleds that race out here aren't like anything you'd see on a trail. They're
hand built from the ground up and hits speeds up to 100 miles per hour on the track.

In the end, it was Malcolm Chartier winning the granddaddy of them all and
becoming a back to back champ.

"We did our homework," Chartier said. "We did it last year and tried to
replicate what we did last year and did it again."

"To be able to live in a little town like Eagle River and have a business
because there's not that much other tourism it's just very gratifying," derby
track marketing manager Richard Decker points out. "It's a lot of hard work but
believe me, everything is worth it. We love it."


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ANTIGO - When you can't catch fish, it's easy to blame the lure. If you need something different, people in Antigo make a lure that you might want to try. The Mepps assembly plant is located right off Highway 45.

Mepps fishing lures were originally made in Paris, France, starting in 1938. Back in the 1970's, a local Antigo sporting goods store owner, Todd Sheldon, decided to buy that facility and moved it to Nice, France. His son, Mike is now the president of the company.

"The guys that own the Mepps company in France were getting old enough to where they wanted to retire so we bought the Mepps company in France in 1972," said Sheldon.

One detail that makes the lure number one in the world is that they use actual animal tail fur.

"The tails are washed, dyed and tied back there," said plant worker Kim Wiegert. "And they're dehydrated. They will store a long time, so they can last 3 to 5 years."

There are many benefits to using real hair as opposed to artificial hair.

"The hair is hollow and goes through a lot of wear and tear," said Wiegert. "Other hairs would disintegrate, and fall apart. With these, it'll last longer, the fish can bite on them and it'll take a long time before they'll actually chew them apart."

Along with the hairs, there is a secret way to put the lures together that makes Mepps the best.

"We have a certain wind that we have and we can tell when we put them together, how it should be. All of our spinners are field tested before they actually go out," said Wiegert.

Even though the company distributes their product around the world, the Sheldon's still enjoy being based in Antigo.

"It's home. I grew up here and my parents grew up here and of course my kids did. And it's such a different pace of life here than the rest of the world," said Sheldon.

Everyone putting the little pieces together are women. Kim is just one who works in the plant that has been there for nearly 40 years. She also gives tours of the facility to the public.

"I like to react with the people when they come in, especially ones that have fishing stories to tell you. It's interesting here and you get to meet other people," said Wiegert.

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LANGLADE COUNTY - Since March, Langlade County hasn't had a district attorney.

Its former district attorney Ralph Uttke went to work in Marathon County. The governor could have appointed someone for the job, but chose not to. Since then, a special prosecutor has been filling in.

But all district attorney positions statewide are up for election on November 8th.

Now Portage County assistant district attorney, Elizabeth Constable, will run for the position.

"It was always my plan to be a prosecutor," Constable said "And that's what I've done for my entire career."

Constable has been an assistant district attorney in Portage County for the past two years and also an assistant DA in Wood County for five years before that.

"I'm at the point in my career that I feel qualified to step into a leadership position," Constable said.

So when former Langlade County District Attorney Ralph Uttke left the office this spring, Constable saw her opportunity. She has a home ouside Elcho, so she decided to run��"and she's running uncontested.

"It all just worked out perfectly," Constable said.

Newswatch 12 caught Constable on vacation. But if she wasn't, she probably would have been in the courtroom. In her seven years, she's prosecuted 25 jury trials. But she's passionate about the justice system because she's seen it work, and wants it to work.

"I've had cases where I've really seen a turnaround in the defendent...the objectives of the sentencing actually worked," Constable said.

Part of that passion comes not only from her law degree from University of Wisconsin Law School. Before that, Constable got her masters in religion and philosophy from Harvard University��"on a full scholarship.

"Kind of studying people, who we are, what we do , how we think, what motivates us," Constable said.

It's that kind of study that lends itself well to her work as a prosecutor, she said.

"I really do also want to see that the defendants for the most part I just want to see them get on the right path," Constable said. 

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OSHKOSH - Yes, Hollywood actor Harrison Ford uses a checklist when he flies.

The "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" star was accompanied by an inquisitive teenager when he flew his DeHavilland Beaver on Thursday at the AirVenture Oshkosh 2016 air show.

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STEVENS POINT - The trip for a couple flying from Wisconsin to Arizona will take longer after their private plane skidded onto a runway in Stevens Point Thursday morning.

Neither person was hurt.  The couple was flying back to Arizona after attending the EAA event in Oshkosh.

After an electrical problem, the landing gear in their airplane didn't deploy.  They did what's called a belly-landing on a runway at the Stevens Point Municipal Airport just before 8:30 this morning.

The Stevens Point Fire Department responded to the scene.

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ANTIGO - The Raptor Education Group, Inc. (REGI) in Antigo got its start more than 25 years ago. It's a group that helps nurse injured birds back to life and returns them to the wild. But have you ever stopped to take a look at one of the people who makes it all happen?

REGI Executive Director Marge Gibson starts her day around 5:00a.m. every day to look after some of smallest and largest birds brought to REGI daily. The rehabilitation and education center opened, all from Gibson's love of birds. 

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NORTHEASTERN WI - Police in northeastern Wisconsin need help finding a missing 47-year-old woman.

Nancy Renkas was last seen on July 18th in Iron Mountain. She told a relative that she planned to drive to Menominee, Michigan to look at a camping trailer.

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MADISON - The head of Wisconsin's State Patrol is ready to retire.

Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Stephen Fitzgerald will step down Aug. 5 after five years leading the agency. Gov. Scott Walker's office announced his retirement Thursday.

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