Northwoods Spotlight: Record Vintage crowd; 20K expected for DerbySubmitted: 01/16/2013
Story By Joe Dufek

EAGLE RIVER - Last weekend was the first of two world championship snowmobile races in Eagle River.
Racers took us back in time, hopping on sleds at least a quarter-century old.

The Vintage Snowmobile Championships showed drivers racing on sleds which were made before 1985. Several Northwoods racers took the checkered flag on the final day of action. Including Jeff Stoxen of Rhinelander - winning in the 440 Sport Mod. Racing these old machines is a thrill.

"It's been getting bigger, and bigger," says Jeff Stoxen of Rhinelander - one of the vintage racers. "Everybody is one big family for vintage. Everyone helps everybody out."

A record 7,000 fans watched the Vintage races here at Eagle River Derby Track. Over 20,000 are expected for this weekend's World Championship Derby.

Derby track owner Chuck Decker adds, "the big news is the $60,000 prize to the World Champion this year. Just the one class alone is going to pay out $90,000."

Last year's defending champion Nick Van Strydonk will return to defend his crown. The Tomahawk racer is excited to be racing with the event celebrating it's 50th year.

Several past champions will be honored on Friday night. Time trials get underway Thursday. The World Championship is set for 3pm Sunday afternoon.

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RHINELANDER - A Marathon County man who drove to Rhinelander to meet up with a 15-year-old girl for sex told police he nearly turned around.

Instead, Dustin Zernicke pulled into the Shopko parking lot Friday night and found officers waiting for him.

The 35-year-old Zernicke made his initial appearance in Oneida County Court Monday afternoon.  Undercover officers posted an ad on Craigslist pretending to be a 15-year-old girl.  The post said "Mom sent me [to] Rhinelander for the weekend and I have nothing to do."

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WISCONSIN - This year marks the third highest bear harvest in state history.

The totals cement Wisconsin's title as the best state in the U.S. for bear harvests with 4,643 registered.

But it wasn't all good news for bear hunters. 

This year also marked the highest number of hunting dog deaths.

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MINOCQUA - The Minocqua Town Board always knew it would need to replace Supervisor Bryan Jennings eventually. But the Board didn't think it happen so soon.

Jennings died September 8, two days after he was struck by lightning while walking his dog.

Town Chairman Mark Hartzheim says the Town is now accepting letters of interest from anyone wanting to fill Jennings's seat.

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RHINELANDER - We likely won't find out who Rhinelander's next police chief will be until early next year.  But the city is already working to replace Chief Mike Steffes.

Newswatch 12 learned earlier this month Chief Steffes is leaving Rhinelander to take a job with the Department of Justice.

Steffes beat out 34 other candidates to win the chief job in 2007.  Police and Fire Commission President Todd McEldowney expects to see dozens of new applicants this time.

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WAUSAU - This fall Wausau's Woodson Art Museum will bring together artists from all over the world. 

The Birds in Art exhibit gives artists an opportunity to share a piece of themselves with their audience.

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What We're Working OnSubmitted: 10/24/2016

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

We'll update you on the details of a fatal car crash in the Town of Stella that took the life of a teenager late Saturday night.

This year marks the third highest bear harvest in state history. But it also marked the highest number of hunting dog deaths. No one knows for sure why, but we'll tell you about some possible reasons.

And the Elcho-White Lake High School football team agreed to play an 8-man football game against a nearby high school's team. We'll tell you how it's helping out the nearby team.

We'll bring you the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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MERRILL - The Merrill Fire Department sees the need for more, younger EMTs to get into the business. Like other area departments, it wants to ensure its staff will stay strong for years into the future.

People like Dylan Schielke can help make that happen.

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