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Lights of the Northwoods premieres Friday nightSubmitted: 12/14/2018

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RHINELANDER - Michael Rompertl saw a problem and he decided to fix it. 

"Well the name of this park is Hodag Park, yet there's no hodag," said Rompertl, while standing next to a display of three lit hodags. "Within about three days, they put together this display back here so we have actual hodags in the park."

Then he added it to one of Rhinelander's favorite holiday traditions: the Lights of the Northwoods annual light show.


"It's fantastic what the Lights of the Northwoods has done in two years," said Rompertl. "They have over 100,000 lights in the park this year. They have about 35 displays in the park this year. Doubled what they had last year."

Event President Shawn Will spent a year planning the second annual show. Seeing it all complete, bigger and brighter than last year, showed him his efforts were worth it. 
 
"To actually see new additions as we grow each year, it's just really exciting just to see it get bigger and better," said Will.

Rompertl hopes one factor that will also get bigger and better is support from the community. He believes that support may just help the light show, and the hodag display, soar in years to come.

Rhinelander, you can see these hodags are off the ground a little bit," said Rompertl. "There's some good spirit going on, but I predict that in years to come these hodags will be flying if we get more Rhinelander community support. "

Will said he's already thinking about plans for next year.

He wants more lights than this year, plus a trolley that people could ride that would go through the light show.
The light show will run for two weekends, from Dec. 14 to 16 and Dec. 21 to 23. 


Story By: Angela Kim

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 LOCAL NEWS

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RHINELANDER - Dialing in her car radio to 87.9 FM at Hodag Park in Rhinelander put Erica Chariton into a festive mood on Friday morning.

"It's the Field of Dreams moment, as I like to call it," Chariton said.

Her group's months of hard work all led up to Friday night: the grand opening of the Lights of the Northwoods year two at 5 p.m.  The show expanded from one weekend to two, with lights displays Friday through Sunday from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.

"Yes, [we added] a lot more lights this year," Chariton, the group's secretary, said with a laugh.

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RHINELANDER - About 30 years ago, Zion Lutheran Church in Rhinelander held it's last live nativity scene. But Saturday, that tradition will be coming back.

The nativity will include animals like donkeys, horses, and lambs. Actors and actresses will play people in The Bible Story. Board of outreach director Jeff Coser said this is a beautiful telling of the birth of Jesus Christ to the community.

"I think the folks that attend, they're really going to enjoy it. It's obviously very traditional," said Coser. "We're going to have our choir here as well as singing traditional Christmas hymns."

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SUGAR CAMP - Stacey Klein is an employee of St. Mary's Hospital in Rhinelander.

She works in the occupational therapy department where she helps patients recover from serious health problems.

"I help them re-learn how to get dressed and [get back to] their daily activities," said Klein.

Friday, she took the day off, but didn't take the day off from helping others.

"This is like my favorite day of the year," Klein said.

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MINOCQUA - A generous donation gave one Northwoods fire department a new life-saving tool. The Minocqua Fire Department now has its own airboat.

The department had been considering getting one for a few years. Before they would use a man-powered sled, which had to be walked out to people trapped on ice. Assistant Fire Chief Brian Hazelett said an airboat makes rescue attempts easier.

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THREE LAKES - One Northwoods town got a new chamber of commerce director this week. Collette Sorgel spent her first day as the Three Lakes director Thursday.

Sorgel moved to the area full time back in 2009. As the new chamber director, she plans to send surveys to get feedback from various businesses and town board members, to see what things the chamber could improve on. 

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ONEIDA COUNTY - The Oneida County Tourism Council believes a new brand and new website can help it attract a younger generation of people on vacation.

For the second year in a row, the state tourism department gave the council almost $40,000 to work on a branding project.

The council plans to replace its current website.  It's also looking for ways to draw new people from new places to the county.

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ONEIDA COUNTY - Thursday morning, Oneida County District Attorney Michael Schiek argued an affair with a 15-year-old girl gave Robin Mendez motive to murder his wife, Barbara Mendez, in 1982. 

"There was the potential for that information and that affair to be released to other people in the community even the victim, Barbara," said Schiek. 

But Thursday Mendez's attorney argued the affair should not be a part of that evidence. Peter Prusinski said the affair began in the summer of 1981 and ended in the fall of 1982. Nothing stopped it from happening, even the murder.

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