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Early snow believed to draw more tourists to NorthwoodsSubmitted: 02/28/2014
Early snow believed to draw more tourists to Northwoods
Story By Lauren Stephenson

MINOCQUA - Many of us can't wait for the chilly temperatures to give way to spring.

But people in the tourism industry say the weather brought more visitors to the Northwoods at the end of 2013.

The Lakeland Area saw a $4,500 increase in room tax collected this past October, November and December.

That's compared to the same time last year.

Hotels and other places of lodging collect room tax on all accommodations.

People in the industry believe the increase was because of the early snowfall in early December.

"We think a large part of the reason that we experienced that increase was really due to our early snow-cover and heavy snow cover that allowed the snowmobile clubs to get the trails open. Most of the trails in Oneida County opened December 15th. That was very early considering it's usually about two weeks later at least that the trails open," Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kim Baltus.

The room tax rate in Arbor Vitae, Woodruff, Lake Tomahawk and Minocqua is 4%.

Three-quarters of that goes to the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce to promote the area.

The Chamber advertises heavily in the Chicago area and southern Wisconsin.

The cold weather isn't just drawing more people to the area now.

It also has many people thinking about the spring and summer.

"I've had many, many calls from people that are making those plans and they're anxious to start thinking about summer and coming up to the lake," added Baltus.

They hope the numbers will also be up for January, February and March.

January and February are the strongest winter months for tourism.

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 IN OTHER NEWS

MADISON (AP) - Northern Wisconsin businesses that are having trouble finding employees are hoping to lure retirees to work or keep people nearing retirement on the job longer.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that economic development experts say low unemployment rates, a lack of new workers and a growing number of people on the cusp of retirement have created a major demand for workers.

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WISCONSIN - A 46-year-old Manitowoc man that was reported missing Thursday evening was found in northern Wisconsin on Saturday.

Manitowoc Police said David L. Mellstrom had not been seen in Manitowoc since Feb. 22 around 10 p.m. Police said they had information he was in the Eagle River area yesterday.

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WOODRUFF - People came together in Woodruff on Saturday to raise money for a good cause. This was the fifth year for the Carrol Lake Ice Fishing Tournament.

In total about 175 people entered into the tournament. People could win prizes and could help themselves to some food throughout the day.

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PARK FALLS - The thousands of lakes in the Northwoods make it a popular place for seaplane pilots.

But there's no place set aside to park, repair, or refuel the planes in the area.

Park Falls plans to become that Northwoods hub this year.

Mike Drover, who runs Phillips-based Long Lake Aviation, and Park Falls leaders plan build a seaplane base where the Park Falls Municipal Airport meets the Flambeau River.

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SHAWANO COUNTY - Thursday marked a big victory for a group of people wanting to keep a sex offender out of their Forest County neighborhood. A Shawano County Judge ruled in favor of continuing an order that stops Jeffrey LeVasseur from moving to Blackwell.

The hearing itself lasted about seven and a half hours on Thursday. But to the Blackwell residents in the civil case, the lengthy trial was worth the outcome.

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EAGLE RIVER - Blink and you might miss him.  Patrik Sandell tends to understate things, but flying around on a frozen lake, sometimes at 100 miles per hour, is simply "normal" for him.

"I've been flying out here," Sandell said.  "For me, this is how I grew up."

Sandell learned to drive race cars under similar conditions as a youngster in Sweden.  The 35-year-old joined Subaru Rally Team USA and wanted to bring his ice driving experience to the states.  The racing style means drifting a car at high speeds through a curvy ice track.

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MINOCQUA - Every four years, winter sports gain popularity during the Olympics. For two weeks, athletes show the world what they can do. The skaters from the Lakeland Figure Skating Club aren't in the Olympics, but they've spent months perfecting their routines for a showcase this weekend. 

Ice skating has been a lifelong passion for Raven Carufel. 

"I originally saw the Disney movie Ice Princess and my parents got me a pair of skates for Christmas and it's been history since then," said 16-year-old Carufel. 

Now, she skates at the Lakeland Hawks Ice Arena to improving her skills and move up levels. Advancing is a big part of the sport. But skating also serves as a stress reliever. 

"I feel so confident when I'm on the ice it's kind of a release for everything in life," said Carufel. 

Carufel and the other skaters are preparing for the Lakeland Figure Skating Club's Ice Show this weekend.
Skaters of all ages and skills levels show off their routines.

"This is the only show I do out of the year, otherwise its mostly training for competing," said 17-year-old Lainie Kuckkahn. 

Lakeland Ice Arena is home for Kuckkahn. She also travels all over the state and country to compete.
"Right now my goal is to pass all my free skates and also continue competing and hopefully get a few higher scores," said Kuckkahn. 

These skaters spend weeks, months, and even years practicing. But every four years, their sport comes into the spotlight in the Olympics. They get to watch some of their favorite skaters perform. 

"My favorite skater is Evgenia from Russia," said Carufel. 

"I've always really liked Mirai Nagasu, so I was really happy when she landed her triple axel this year in competition."

Watching their favorite athletes on TV gives young skaters some extra motivation to keep getting better.
"Just seeing that strength they have kind of inspires me to strengthen my own skating," said Carufel. 

"It makes me feel good because sometimes I want to be in the Olympics. I kind of imagine me and my group being in the Olympics having just fun," said eight-year-old Addison Nelson. 

The shows will be held on Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Lakeland Hawks Ice Arena in Minocqua. 

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