Early snow believed to draw more tourists to NorthwoodsSubmitted: 02/28/2014
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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RHINELANDER - When you think of fundraisers, usually you think of selling candy or gift wrap, but one elementary school is getting more creative with the way they fundraise.

Pelican Elementary School in Rhinelander started their first ever 'Strut for Fund' fun run Wednesday.

Student's family and friends pledge money based on how many laps the kids run around the playground.

The school then gets to use that money.

Organizers say the support is overwhelming in its first year.

"We're really excited, having this be our first year with the amount of support we're seeing with parents who have shown up, and with the enthusiasm in the kids," says Strut for Fund Coordinator Katie Lindner. "I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for all that they're doing to make this a success."

Students got an added treat to help encourage them.

The Hodag came out to help the kids get fired up.

"We had a pep rally [Tuesday]and the kids were up out of their seats, yelling and cheering," says Lindner. "The Hodag was dancing with them, so they get really excited about it. I had one little boy that came up to me this morning and said 'This is the best day ever,' and was so excited."

Organizers also have other incentives for running like pizza parties and ice cream socials.

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What We're Working OnSubmitted: 10/07/2015

- The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra made its nearly annual stop in Rhinelander Wednesday morning. The orchestra played 200-year-old music for grade school children, but the conductor says Beethoven connects people in ways no other music can. Hear some of the show from him tonight at 5.

We'll have the details on this story and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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Fall fire safety tipsSubmitted: 10/07/2015

RHINELANDER - Some people like to cozy up next to a fireplace on fall nights, but finding cost-effective ways to stay warm can be risky.

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MADISON - A court decision to let the Ho-Chunk Nation offer video poker at its Madison casino will stand after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1jdn78F ) the Supreme Court refused to take case on Monday with no comment. The case was among about 1,600 other cases the court declined to take up.

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MADISON - Republicans who control the state Assembly have introduced a bill that would reshape Wisconsin's campaign finance laws.

The measure would double the amount of contributions candidates for state and local office could accept and calls for adjusting those limits every five years to account for inflation.

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CHICAGO - A suburban Chicago man has been extradited from Wisconsin to face criminal charges in the 2013 carjacking crash that killed an 11-year-old boy.

Thirty-six-year-old Rockie Douglas of Beach Park is charged with murder, aggravated vehicular hijacking with a weapon and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

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MERRILL - The Merrill Police Department runs on the motto: "Serving Merrill With Pride." Tuesday, the people of Merrill returned the favor.

Every penny of the Friendship House Restaurant's proceeds from open to close went to the K-9 unit.

Eros, the German Shepherd, and his handler, Officer Matt Drabek, spent Tuesday afternoon at the restaurant along Highway 51 thanking customers and staff.

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