Northwoods groups host Pride Month event in Arbor VitaeSubmitted: 06/11/2017
Story By Dakota Sherek

Northwoods groups host Pride Month event in Arbor Vitae
ARBOR VITAE - Every year, June serves as Pride Month. This year, a couple Northwoods groups joined together to start a new pride event.

"It's the Northwoods, we're not exactly known for rainbow flags everywhere," said Colleen Egan, a former Hodag Rainbow student president.

But on Saturday, Egan was pleasantly surprised.

"This is beyond my imagination," said Egan.

As a former member of the LGBT+ support group, "Rainbow Hodags", Egan had discussed hosting a Pride event before.

"When we first started talking about this we thought 'How many are going to be comfortable coming out to this,'" said Egan.

The Northwoods Progressives and Rainbow Hodags teamed up to put on the inaugural "Northwoods Pride Picnic." 

Dozens attended the event at the Arbor Vitae Fireman's Park, surpassing many people's expectations.

"I'm very surprised, I thought there was going to be like maybe 10 people here at most. This is very nice, I'm happy about this," said Rainbow Hodag member Charlie Phillips.

A Wisconsin state senator also made an appearance.

"It's a great day for a rainbow," said Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland).

Bewley says she was glad to come.

"I am proud to stand here as a state senator and as a personal private citizen to let them know that what they believe matters to me," said Bewley.

Those in the LGBT community say they haven't always felt supported in the Northwoods.

"There's not very much of a queer community in the area because it's small town, kind of conservative," said Phillips.

But the turnout at the pride picnic is giving some hope that more acceptance is on the horizon.

"I think it's a really good thing happening, it's a sign of the times," said Rainbow Hodag member Don Schindhelm.

The turnout also served as a sign that more LGBT+ events may be held in the future.

"I'd love to see events like this held throughout the year too. To have spaces for queer people and LGBT+ people in the Northwoods and celebrating that," said Egan.

Egan hopes that events like this will show people what it's like to be in someone else's shoes.

"I just hope people come to sympathize and understand, and maybe eventually come out here and show support too," said Egan.

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WAUSAU - Charges have been filed against a Wausau man accused of killing one person and wounding two others in a shooting at the Pine Grove Cemetery earlier this month.

Henry West faces 16 felony counts and one misdemeanor charge.

Charges include one count of 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide, eleven counts of Attempted 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide, one charge of Arson, three charges of Attempted Arson of Building, and a misdemeanor charge of Resisting or Obstructing an Officer.

West will appear in Marathon County court Friday at 2 p.m

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CRANDON - Native American youth in the Northwoods will be hunting deer and learning how their ancestors got as much as they could out of the animal.

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LANGLADE COUNTY - A Lincoln Co. man on probation for possessing meth could spend more time in prison after a second drug-related arrest.

Joshua Cortright, 36, of Merrill was arrested Thursday after a traffic stop in Antigo.

In the vehicle, police found just under 46 grams of meth in a green backpack that belonged to Cortright.

Police also found a digital scale and a GPS monitoring device that Cortight had cut off.

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MINOCQUA - An organization in Minocqua works to help animals get back out into the wild after they're injured.

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RHINELANDER - Students from Pelican Elementary went to the Cedric A. Vig Outdoor Classroom, or CAVOC, center at the Rhinelander School Forest on Friday to learn about nature and weather.

They learned about the sun, air pressure, thunderstorms, and more. They also saw experiments on how to create a cloud, how air pressure works, and what causes wind. Kindergarten teacher Shawn Belanger said the students were very excited to learn.

"They couldn't wait, they kept asking me every day," said Kindergarten teacher Shawn Belanger When is CAVOC and we would count the days down and yesterday they were hyped up. It was so much fun."

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WAUSAU - The man accused of shooting multiple people at a Wausau cemetery on October 3rd made his initial appearance at the Marathon County Courthouse Friday. 

One person was killed in the shooting, and two others were injured.

Henry West faces 17 charges, including one count of first degree homicide, 11 counts of attempted homicide, and arson. 

West was apprehended minutes after the shootings on the morning of October 3rd at the Pine Grove Cemetery.

He had been fired from his job there back in 2012.

Upon searching West's apartment, police found several homemade explosives and identified a natural gas leak from a ripped out supply line.

Police said if the gas were to have ignited, it would have created a large explosion, possibly putting hundreds of lives at risk.

"I think there was potential for this incident to be much worse," said Wausau PD Captain Ben Graham. "It's a tragedy, don't get me wrong. But certainly there were other lives at stake had the circumstances been a little different."

West had been evicted from his apartment and instructed to leave that day.

Each of the shooting victims either worked at the cemetery or were related to someone there.

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The organization "Feed Our Rural Kids" or FORK was formed to raise money to provide nutritional support to school-aged children from food-insecure homes.

The group efforts are focused on the area served by the Northland Pines School District.

Perry Pokrandt, the president of FORK said the program was created to bridge a gap.

"There's a gap between the programs that currently serve the nutritional needs and give additional support for the children and the number children within our community that need help," said Pokrandt.

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