WAUSAU - Canoeing with a friend on the weekend can serve as a great way to relax.
But this weekend in Wausau, canoeing was everything but peaceful.
The Whitewater Park played host to the Open Canoe Nationals.
The course had a fast water current with rocks and other obstacle.
Competitors from around the world tried to navigate the stretch.
Canadians Paul and Willa Mason use canoeing to bond as a family.
They think this is the toughest course in the country.
"Especially tandem it's really hard to get both people through the gate and not hit it with your stern," Paul Mason said. "You will see us all looking back as we go through, so it is very challenging, probably the hardest we've been to."
The events consisted of men's, women's, and mixed classes for both tandem and solo canoes.
John Kazimierczyk has canoed for 37 years. He believes the sport is always looking for new people.
"Start with a canoe club, and dont be afraid to get wet and dont be afaid to make mistakes the first time you try it," Kazimierczyk said. "Its fun, you have to do it for fun."
The next event at the Whitewater park will be in August.
That event will include freestyle canoeing with paddlers doing flips and twists throughout the course.
RHINELANDER - The Hodag Country Musical Festival kicks off on Thursday.
But there are already plenty of people camping out for the big event in the Northwoods.
Those campers benefit businesses in the Northwoods both new and old.
Johnny Nickolaou, who opened his liquor store in Sugar Camp around Thanksgiving, understands the importance of tourism.
"Huge, you know you depend on locals year round and they are great, but if it weren't for them I could never afford to be open," said Nickalaou. "But it's really nice getting this push to hopefully get us through the winter months."
Nickolaou set up a deal in preparation of Hodag Country Festival. He discounted around 10 large orders.
"15 case orders, most of them which is quite a bit I thought," said Nickalaou.
FLORENCE - People in some areas of Wisconsin may take easy access to groceries for granted. People in Florence don't.
Last year, the USDA considered the Florence area a "food desert". There was no grocery store in all of Florence County, and it had been that way for seven years.
That's all changed. Pat's Foods has now been open for a year in town.
A vacant space in Florence looked like a slab of concrete with a roof a year ago. Now, Pat's Foods stays busy every day at the location. The full service grocery store supplies food and fresh produce, meats, and dairy. That convenience means people are shopping steadily at Pat's, and business is good.
FLORENCE - The Florence County Library looks much more appealing nowadays. That's thanks to thousands of dollars worth of hand-me-downs from southeastern Wisconsin.
The Milwaukee suburb of Cedarburg wanted brand new furniture and shelves for its new state-of-the-art library. Florence was pleased to take Cedarburg's unwanted shelving - and Florence got it for free.
"They provided basically all of the shelving that you see in our library for anything that's stacks, which is where the books are, on both sides of the library, along with the oak desks that you'll see in the back of the library," said Florence County Library Director Stephanie Weber.
EAGLE RIVER - If you want a new summer activity, look no further than Eagle River. A new art studio offers many different classes to kids and adults.
"We've been here for a month, but the organization has been together for about three years," said Summer Program Director Erica Bush. "We're very excited to be in our own building finally."
Classes can cost anywhere from $20 to $50. People can sign up for classes ahead of time or just walk into the center. Program directors think it's important for kids to get involved in art early on.
"It's the creativity that the kids learn about," said Bush. "Creativity can go into all different aspects—math, science—it's everywhere. So enforcing art when they're really young will really lead to a more intelligent future for these kids."
The center offers anything from painting to pottery to cooking. Kids shared why they love to take art classes. "You could just grab a piece of paper or something and then you can just doodle on it," said 4th grader Nicholas Fluegel.
"It's really calming, and there's no bad way to do art," said 6th grader Grace Florence.
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