Erin Gottsacker

Reporter and Morning Edition Host

Erin Gottsacker joined WXPR in December 2020. As a morning edition host and reporter, Erin reports on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.

A Cincinnati native, Erin graduated from Ohio State University with bachelor’s degrees in Journalism and International Development. Before coming to Wisconsin, she served as a Peace Corps educator in rural Ethiopia.

Erin is happy to call Northern Wisconsin home, after spending a lifetime of visiting family in the area. Erin is a fan of hiking, ice cream and Bananagrams.

Ways to Connect

Vilas County Sheriff's Office Facebook Page

Update 1:26 p.m.: The Vilas County Sheriff's Office has now identified the snowmobile rider as Gregory Parkinson, 40, of Tomahawk. 

Orignal post: A person died yesterday evening after breaking through ice while snowmobiling on Catfish Lake in Vilas County.

According to a press release from the Vilas County Sheriff’s Office, the snowmobiler left the marked trail and drove to a part of the lake with thin ice.

Emergency rescue personnel arrived on the scene after a 911 call around 7 pm yesterday. 

U.S. Small Business Administration

Small businesses can officially begin applying for loans through the new version of the Paycheck Protection Program.

Yesterday, banks like Nicolet National Bank and JPMorgan Chase could begin submitting borrowers’ applications to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

When the federal government passed its second COVID-inspired stimulus package in December, it included a new round of the Paycheck Protection Program.

Between April and August last year, that program distributed more than $500 billion in forgivable loans to millions of businesses across the country.

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

COVID-19  has put the performing arts industry in peril, spelling hardship for theaters, performers and arts educators everywhere.

But in the Northwoods, the show must go on, and local theaters are adapting to the times.

I’m sitting in Rhinelander High School’s nearly empty auditorium.

On the stage in front of me, about 20 students are performing their final dress rehearsal of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

One of the actors twirls around in a long, rainbow-colored coat.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is planning to make improvements to a section of Highway 32 in Forest County as soon as next year.

Right now, it’s seeking public input.

In coming years, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation plans to resurface a portion of Highway 32.

It’s the 4-mile stretch between Carter and County C in Wabeno.

Nick Vos is the project manager.

This week is Wisconsin Salt Awareness Week, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is reminding people to use less salt on their sidewalks.

Winter brings a never-melting coat of ice and snow to Northern Wisconsin, and many people turn to salt as a solution to slippery sidewalks and roads.

But Suzan Limberg from the Wisconsin DNR says using too much salt can do more harm than good.

“Once it gets excessive, it’s not good for our roads or other infrastructure or our environment,” she said.

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

The shelves at Family Video are beginning to look empty.

Last week, the video rental chain announced it will sell its stock of movies and video games.

Then, its 250 remaining stores will permanently close.

Jordan Strand has worked at Rhinelander’s Family Video for the past six years.

She knows the customers that come to the store every day and the movies they check out over and over again.

“They’re getting their favorites that they watch many times,” she said.

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

Several years ago, Oneida County’s Forestry, Land and Recreation Committee decided to sell a portion of Town Line Lake Park.

But the sale still hasn’t been completed.

Now, a group of community members are speaking up in opposition.

Two miles outside Rhinelander, Town Line Lake Park offers public access to a small lake.

Years ago, the park housed playground equipment and picnic shelters.

But more recently, fewer visitors frequent the park.

As snow slowly accumulates, snowmobile trails throughout the Northwoods are beginning to open.

The trails in Iron County, WI opened on Christmas morning.

Vilas County’s trails opened on New Year’s Day.

But the holidays did not bless Oneida County’s snowmobile trails in the same way.

Without enough snow, trails in Rhinelander, Three Lakes and Minocqua, WI remain closed.

But that’s not stopping some snowmobilers from taking a ride.

Clint Zimbeck is the trail boss for Three Lakes Trails.

The state of Wisconsin just finished its third week of distributing COVID-19 vaccinations to health care workers.

To date, 85,609 Wisconsinites have received the vaccine, according to Andrea Palm, the secretary-designee with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, in a media briefing Tuesday.

That’s a fraction of the nearly 270,000 vaccines that have been distributed to vaccinators around the state.

Palm said vaccination efforts slowed over the holidays.

Vilas County Sheriff's Office Facebook Page

Berklee Adamovich is a frequent visitor to the Vilas County Sheriff’s Office.

She’s not in trouble.

She goes to the office to wait for her mom, who works there.

“She comes into the office quite a bit and makes her rounds just to say hi,” said Patrick Schmidt, the chief deputy. “She was in the week before Christmas, waiting for her mom to get off work, just hanging out.”

But before Christmas arrived, Berklee received bad news.

She was diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma cancer, a type of cancer that occurs in bones and soft tissues.

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

Vilas County’s snowmobile trails opened just in time to kick off 2021, pleasing both snowmobilers and local business owners.

John and Lisa Jonas are out for their first snowmobile ride of the winter.

“It's certainly early season, but it's great to get out," John said. "Things are fun, we’re glad they opened [the trails].”

They’re not the only ones eager for the start of snowmobile season.

“We have people chomping at the bit,” said Al Murray, the Vilas County Forest Administrator.

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

The COVID-19 pandemic has put conservation workshops and classes on hold, so the Northwoods Alliance and Partners in Forestry Cooperative came together to fill the void.

They published a handbook about Northwoods forest conservation as a resource for those interested in land management.

Joe Hovel and his wife started acquiring their land in Conover, Wisconsin when their son was just a baby.

On the 400 acre property, trees tower in every direction.

Since Joe Hovel started managing this property, his son, Mark, has grown up.

George Rouman

As people pack away decorations at the close of an unusual holiday season, local business owners analyze their earnings.

Some did better than expected. Others fight to stay afloat.

George Rouman owns Rouman Cinema and the Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe, both in Rhinelander.

“It has been an absolutely brutal year,” he said.

The period between Thanksgiving and New Year is one of his busiest times for both businesses, but especially his movie theater.

“[This time] is something that theaters look forward to every year,” he said.

Minocqua Winter Park Facebook Page

On the last day of December, a white blanket of snow finally covered the ground in Rhinelander, WI.

The snow arrived more than a month later than usual.

That means cross-country ski and snow mobile trails are just now starting to open.

“We are now operating,” said Mark Stuber, the chalet coordinator at Minocqua Winter Park. “We have been biting our nails waiting for enough snow and we finally got it.”

After a late start to the ski season, Stuber said their core trails are groomed and ready for classic skiing.

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

Salvation Army branches in Northern Wisconsin were anticipating a lower haul than usual this year from their annual Red Kettle campaign.

That’s because the COVID-19 pandemic kept many volunteer bell ringers and possible donors in their homes, instead of at stores and shopping malls.

But one Salvation Army branch did better than workers expected.

The Minocqua Salvation Army raised nearly $37,000, meeting its goal and staying on par with previous years.