RHINELANDER - Every year, Hodag Country Fest takes over Rhinelander for a weekend in the middle of July. For many of the tens of thousands of country festers, it's a weeklong event.|
"I had a good time so I came back," says Betty Garrow, from Rome, WI.
That was 23 years ago. Now Garrow has one of the most coveted camping spots on the Hodag Country Fest fairgrounds.
"He says, 'I married her for that'. I brought him up here and then we got married the next year," says Garrow.
"No, we would have gotten married anyway. But you gotta tell these guys up here that I married her for this spot," says Weston Garrow.
Campsite claiming can be a cutthroat business. It's how the group next to the Garrow's became their long-time Hodag neighbors.
"Oh yeah, since I moved here they've been across from us," says Betty Garrow.
"Apparently two women who had these sites before, they forgot to call in in the time allotted. We happened to trade in our old spots for these. We met them one time out on the road. They were staring at the sites and said, 'those used to be our sites'," says Al Sadowski, from Stevens Point.
These Happy Hodagers obviously come for more than the four day weekend of music. They start camping the Saturday before.
"I think it's the people. It isn't so much the entertainers because they're all good," says Betty Garrow.
"All the camaraderie, all the fun with people," says Weston Garrow.
"We probably enjoy the beginning of the week best because the concert isn't really on, and you get more time to visit and catch up on old times," says Sadowski.
This group bonded so well they've even been to each other's children's weddings. And they have advice for this year's first-timers.
"Just have fun, I guess. Do whatever you want to do," says Betty Garrow.
"You'll see something you're never going to believe. Just take it as is and run, before you lose your eyesight," says Weston Garrow.
"Don't get too smashed, maintain your soberism, and just have a good time," says Sadowski.
Advice it might be wise to follow. These seasoned vets would know better than anybody the recipe for a "Happy Hodag".