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Arts & Culture

Hodag Heritage Festival returns to celebrate Rhinelander’s long history with the mythical creature

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Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR
Hodags on display at the Pioneer Park Historical Complex show different interpretations of the mythical creature over the years.

Back for its second year, the Hodag Heritage Festival wants the Rhinelander community to celebrate all things Hodag.

In terms of Rhinelander’s history with the mythical beast, the Hodag is 129 years old according to Kerry Bloedorn, Pioneer Park Historical Complex Director and one of the festival organizers.

“It’s really become a part of the heart of Rhinelander, the ‘Home of the Hodag’, to celebrate its history, acknowledge that it has a uniqueness. It’s a special thing. Hodags are special thing that you can’t find anywhere else in America and nowhere else on planet earth,” said Bloedorn.

20220516_132703.jpg
Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR
Hodags on display at the Pioneer Park Historical Complex show different interpretations of the mythical creature over the years.

Eugene Shepard created the Hodag partly as a prank but also as way to draw people to the Northwoods.

“He created the Hodag, this mythological, furbearing, lizard-like, prehistoric, horned creature. Articles about this beast were printed in newspapers across the country. It just captivated the minds of America. Since that time it has been ingrained in the fabric of Rhinelander’s history,” Bloedorn said.

There are events going on right now.

You can participate in Downtown Rhinelander Incorporated’s Hodag Scavenger Hunt with the first clue at Tom’s Drawing Board.

“I had a hand in putting together a few of the clues and let me tell ya folks, they are not easy. I really think it’s going to take people all week to get through them,” said Bloedorn.

Local restaurants are serving up Hodag themed food all this week. Businesses are encouraged to decorate to show their Hodag pride.

20220516_132605.jpg
Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR
Hodags on display at the Pioneer Park Historical Complex show different interpretations of the mythical creature over the years.

The celebration Saturday at Pioneer Park will include a pancake breakfast, a history bus tour, and a Gene Shepard sideshow reenactment. It’s a call back to when the Hodag creator first introduced the beast at the Oneida County Fair all those years ago.

“It was like a sideshow attraction. People just loved it. At 10 cents a pop, Gene said he made over $500 in the first weekend which is a huge sum of money back in those days,” said Bloedorn.

There will also be vendors, food trucks, and live music.

Bloedorn encourages people to come out and enjoy this unique bit of Northwoods lore.

“This year we have so much Hodagary planned,” he said.

You can view the full list of events on the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce website or find the event on Facebook.

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