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Hodag Country Festival Reverses Course, Cancels 2020 Event

Hodag Country Festival

Two days after Oneida County approved a plan allowing the 2020 Hodag Country Festival to go forward this summer in Rhinelander, festival organizers reversed course and canceled the event.

The event, which was to be held July 9 to 12, made the cancelation announcement Thursday afternoon.

“The possibility of having the Hodag Country Festival has created stress and division in the Rhinelander area, and we are sincerely apologetic for this,” the event wrote on its official Facebook page. “It was never our intent.”

On Tuesday, at the event’s request, the Oneida County Public Safety Committee granted Hodag Country Festival a large gathering permit. It included a number of guidelines suggested by event organizers, including limiting weekend wristband sales to 16,000.

Before that meeting, about 100 people submitted feedback to the county about holding the event during the COVID-19 pandemic. About two-thirds of those comments were in favor of its cancelation.

Oneida County Board Chair Dave Hintz was pleased with the cancelation.

“I think the producers, the promoters of Country Fest made absolutely the right choice for the right reason,” he said. “They were given the opportunity to handle or develop the festival, then listen to the feedback from the public and others about their event.”

On Tuesday, Oneida County Health Officer Linda Conlon told the committee she currently recommended gatherings of no more than 50 people. Nonetheless, on Tuesday, the committee voted 4-1 in favor of granting the permit. On Wednesday, a press release from Conlon made clear granting the permit wasn’t a decision made by the Health Department.

Hintz said the full county board had been considering a plan to reverse the Public Safety Committee’s decision to grant the permit. It would have required 11 supervisors to sign onto holding a special meeting, and Hintz thought it would have had the support.

An online petition seeking to have the festival canceled had garnered more than 8,000 signatures when it closed on Thursday.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He then contributed with periodic stories until 2024. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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