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Country music fans line up early for annual Hodag Country Fest chair lineSubmitted: 07/10/2019
Story By Rose McBride

Country music fans line up early for annual Hodag Country Fest chair line
RHINELANDER - Country music fans were all smiles Wednesday evening even after waiting in line for more than half a day. 

"My nephew went up at the top of the hill at midnight and my niece went over here at 1 a.m.," said Janette Cleveland.


But that's what you have to do if you want to see performers up close at Hodag Country Fest, according to Cleveland, a Rhinelander native. 

The annual chair line event at the festival grounds in Rhinelander kicked off at 6 p.m. Wednesday night. 

People gathered in lines at the corners of the grounds, all hoping that their line would be called first to put their chairs down. 

Cleveland says the early morning and hours of waiting are worth it come performance time. 

"[Last year] Cole Swindell was looking right in my eyes. We were like this far apart," said Cleveland, showing the distance. "And he was singing into my face and I was like oh, I think I love him."

Everyone in line can place two chairs in the grass, so Cleveland's family gets into two lines to ensure everyone will get to see the action up close. 

"We split up into groups to increase our odds," said Cleveland.

The women of the family stood in one line, and the men in the other. 

"We actually were here this early so we can look up at the band members," said Travis Johnson. 

The chair line is just one of the unique things about Hodag that keeps people coming back year after year. 

"You don't have to be a VIP, you get a front row seat if you want to come here early and just enjoy the show," said Johnson. 


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Hodag Lanes Closing Submitted: 08/14/2020

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RHINELANDER - After over 50 years of staying open, Hodag Lanes in Rhinelander has officially closed its doors.

"I mean COVID has hit the bowling business really, really hard no matter where your bowling center is," said Sharon Cline, bowling manager at Hodag Lanes.

And with the construction on Stevens Street, the bowling alley was in a tough situation.

"The construction was also a big play for us because with all the construction out here it was tough for anybody to get through," Cline said.

A lot of memories were created in the bowling alley for various citizens in the city.

"I probably started bowling in the early '80s on the Wednesday night women's league," said Sherri Schilleman, Rhinelander resident. "We had the 9 o'clock slot I believe back then."

For her and many families in Rhinelander, bowling was very popular.

"Bowling is actually a big sport in Rhinelander," said Schilleman. "And I think in the last couple of years bowling was actually starting to make another comeback. So it's sad because people are gonna have to find something else to do."

But Cline is hoping that this won't be the end for Hodag Lanes.

"It is costly to have a bowling center but we're just hoping again that we can get up and running again," said Cline. 

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