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Northwoods Spotlight - Blind snowmobile racing Jan 29Submitted: 01/29/2014
Story By Marisa Silvas


PHELPS - Imagine driving a snowmobile, while blindfolded.

"Not being able to see totally disorients you," racer Jeremiah Chmiel admits.

Another racer, Ray Kangas explains, "It's a freaky feeling cause you're only
going by what someone is telling you."

This unique fundraiser came about in memory of Ken and Peto Buell. The Phelps
community rallied around the idea.


Race Coordinator Cindy Regozzi is proud.

"Blindfolded snowmobiling race! We're a fun, goofy place and have lots of great
ideas," Regozzi says. "That came up in a discussion one night and we tried it.
That was last year and it was very successful so this is our second year."

This is the helmet the drivers used to go around the track. They assured me
that once you put it on, you can't see a thing.

"There is absolutely zero vision," Chmiel adds. "If you're claustrophobic it's
probably not the best thing to put on, cause there's nothing there."

The weather didn't cooperate, but the experience was like nothing else you've
ever seen.

"It sounds scary, but once you do it, it's exciting and you'll want to do it
again," racer Ron Buell proudly explains.

Three Phelps seniors are competing to win a scholarship from the money raised.
The decision will be made based on academics, extra curriculars and community
service.

Jackie Samuelson - a Phelps senior has big goals.

"I plan to go to the University of River Falls for Pre-veterinary medicine,"
Samuelson says. "I'm going to try everything I can to get a lot of scholarships
and this is one that I'd greatly appreciate."

"Hopefully we can draw some more people, raise some more money," Buell points
out. "Help these kids out and give them a better chance to go on in life."


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CRANDON - Pounding rain, howling winds, and flashing lightning�"not the most ideal conditions for camping on Saturday night.

In fact, Saturday night's bad weather couldn't have picked a worse time for thousands of people to set up camp at the Crandon Race Track.

"We were holding onto the awning last night," said Keegan Kincaid, a racer from Crandon. ."It was pouring."

"Our canopy [got] rained [on] so much we had to keep pushing it up so it wouldn't collapse," said Paul Posbrig, a fan from Green Bay.

"It was coming in all over," said Jessie Braden, a fan from Richfield.

But for Crandon fans, the rain certainly didn't dampen the weekend.

"But we made the best of it," said Braden, who comes to Crandon every summer for the Brush Run.

"We had a canopy at one point and put up tarps on the walls as we got downpoured on and it was all windy," Braden said. "If we're going camping, it's going to rain!"

The fans also got their fair share of noise because the rain didn't really affect the race schedule.

"We just had to wait a little bit longer before we could put crews out on the track," said the raceway's announcer, Dave Mullins. "So needed it to dry off a little bit first. But really it was only about a half hour."

But it certainly changed the racers' strategy.

"And so you'll see a lot of changes in trucks and driving styles," Kincaid said.
"Figure out the track, sort out where the grip is, where it's wet, where it's dry," said Arie Luyendyk, Jr., a racer from Arizona.

But Crandon's track is pretty resilient.

"Most tracks we wouldn't be able to race on it the next day, but Crandon has a lot of clay," Kincaid said.

"Because this is a clay track, it doesn't absorb the water as much, it makes it more like a mud pit," Mullins said.

Sunday's nice weather quickly brought the track's conditions back to normal.

"I thought we were going to be racing in the mud, but turns out because of the sun and wind we're actually going back to our setup we had yesterday," Luyendyk, Jr., said. 

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But funding the dive team is expensive. Saturday, community groups came together to help raise money for the team at the Minocqua Swim Challenge.

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PRICE COUNTY - A truck versus train crash killed a woman late Saturday morning.

According to the Price County Sheriff's Office, it happened at the intersection of County Road D and the Canadian National Railroad tracks in the Township of Knox.

Police think a 76-year-old man was driving the truck with a 76-year-old woman in the passenger seat, and the truck and the train collided.

Several different agencies responded, including Canadian National Railroad investigators.

Crews took the man to St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield, and they took the woman to Aspirus Hospital in Wausau where she later died.

Police are still investigating and will not yet release the names.

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The event celebrates the city's logging history while showing off both old and new lumberjack skills.

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"There's a lot of people who have had interest in loon research," said DNR wildlife biologist John Olson.

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Patrick J. Eppolite Jr., 22; Michael A. Beck, 27; Jeremy J. Hess, 36; and Amanda M. Bender, 32, are currently in jail on probation holds, but investigators believe they're connected to some counterfeit $20 bills in the area, according to the Wausau Police Department.

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"Oh yeah, he likes to show them off," David's son Dan said.

The recently turned 82-year-old spends his days in the Portage County Skilled Nursing Facility. His family often spends their weekly visit admiring the oil paintings he once crafted.

"I wouldn't call it a shock, but I didn't know he had that artistic skill," Dan Appel said.

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