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Rhinelander celebrates hodag heritage with a hodag calling contest, a history tour bus and more

Hundreds of Rhinelander residents and visitors gathered at Pioneer Park Saturday to celebrate the hodag at the city’s second annual Hodag Heritage Festival.

Among the day’s festivities, kids and adults of all ages roared, growled and purred during the first ever hodag calling contest.

It was just one of many unique events the festival offered over the weekend.

“We’ve got food trucks, we’ve got a bounce house with free kids activities,” says Rachel Boehlen, the event and program coordinator with the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce. “There’s going to be shows going. There’s going to hodag history bus tours starting soon. There are just all kinds of things.”

Boehlen says the event is all about celebrating the hodag.

“A hodag is a mythological creature that sometimes eats puppies, but not small children,” she explains.

Wisconsin’s Governor Tony Evers officially declared Saturday a statewide Hodag Day.

Boehlen says it’s a proclamation that speaks to the importance of Rhinelander folklore.

“It’s our heritage and I think the only way we can keep passing it on is if the youth believe in it too,” she says.

The day started off with a pancake breakfast and ended with live music at Pioneer Park.

Even though the celebration has wrapped up for the year, Boehlen hopes the hodag will live on in imaginations until next year.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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