RHINELANDER - Big-name country bands travel to Rhinelander from far away for Hodag Country Fest.
But one local band doesn't have to travel far at all for their Hodag debut.
Take a little punk, some bluegrass, and a whole lot of country and you get the Ditchrunners.
"We like to call it 'Honkey-tonk Guttergrass.' But people say it's kind of punk-countryish, whatever it is. It's our own original thing. We're not trying to be like anybody else we're just doing what we do," says Douglas Bredlau, The Ditchrunners' lead singer.
The Stevens Point band came in first place at one of several Hodag Pick-Off competitions in Wisconsin.
Now they get to play on the main stage of Hodag Country Fest.
"It's a real trip because I know what a big deal it is. I know what a huge event it is in Rhinelander. And I'm going to have a bunch of friends that are going to be there that have been going to Hodag for years, and I'm just really excited to get the chance to play for the hometown crowd," adds Bob Weigandt, The Ditchrunners' mandolin player.
Weigandt grew up in Rhinelander.
Ditchrunner's founder Douglas "Buckshot" Bredlau grew up in Park Falls.
Their debut at Hodag Country Fest will also be a competition.
Bands that won regional Hodag Pick-Offs will compete for the title of Wisconsin State Country Band Champion.
"We are rooted in the tradition of country music and we're kind of trying to bring that back a little bit in the world of pop country I guess," says Bredlau.
When The Ditchrunners perform at Hodag Fest on Friday they'll also pre-release their new full-length album.
"Squirrel Lake up by Minocqua, we spent three days out on an island just recording all day, every day for three straight days," says Alex Dalnodar, The Ditchrunners' guitarist.
It's the band's first album with a record label.
You'll be able to buy it July 16th, the same day they perform at the Rhinelander Ice Arena with Buckcherry.
"It's actually a great family and I love these guys more than anybody. It's been a real good time and it's going to get a lot better. I know that," Bredlau says.
MADISON/TOMAHAWK - It may come as a surprise, but fishermen, hunters, or hikers can't legally cross most railroad tracks in Wisconsin.
That's even if the rail line splits their own property. Walking across tracks is only allowed on the thousands of crossings specifically approved by the state.
Some legislative Republicans think that doesn't make sense. They added a proposal to the state budget on Thursday to allow people to cross tracks on foot. Making a crossing would no longer be considered trespassing, and railroad companies would have no power to prevent it.
ANTIGO - Low temperatures this time of year can cause problems for some farmers. One Northwoods strawberry farm had to close down for a few hours earlier this week because the berries aren't ripening as fast as normal.
"The cold days this week made the berries ripen much slower than normal," says Andy Merry, owner of Merry's Berries.
NORTHWOODS - As people start getting ready for the 4th of July, many will camp here in the Northwoods.
The DNR expects almost 3,000 people to camp in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest this weekend.
The DNR thinks this will be their best 4th of July yet, with almost all of the campgrounds full. People say there's nothing better than camping in the Northwoods.
"We like to come up to the Northwoods because it's beautiful and the water's crystal clear," said Prairie Farm resident Peter Fetting. "The other campers are always really friendly, and I've been coming up here for 30 years. This is my 30th year coming up here to camp."
People already got a head start heading out to beaches and on the water Friday. Campers say more people should come enjoy the woods this summer.
MINOCQUA - You can find tourists all over the Northwoods already for the holiday weekend.
That means area police departments are busy making sure everyone stays safe.
The Minocqua Police Department has all of their officers working extended hours on July 4th, but the police chief says they worry more about safety than law enforcement.
"[The] 4th of July is more family-oriented," says Minocqua Chief of Police Dave Jaeger. "You have a lot of families down there with their children, so we're down there to make sure that it's a safe environment."
Places like Minocqua will be packed with people this weekend, so police just want to make sure holiday events go on safely.
"We mainly focus on, during the parade, we do the re-route, and we have officers on the parade route in case there's any type of issues or accidents that may occur, that we have to respond to," says Jaeger.
The Minocqua Police Department also works with the chamber of commerce and public works to make sure everything goes smoothly.
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