Local Features

In addition to the local news, WXPR Public Radio also likes to find stories that are outside the general news cycle... Listen below to stories about history, people, culture, art, and the environment in the Northwoods that go a little deeper than a traditional news story allows us to do. Here are all of the series we include in this podcast: Curious North, We Live Up Here, A Northwoods Moment in History, Field Notes, and Wildlife Matters.

These features are also available as a podcast by searching "WXPR Local Features" wherever you get your podcasts.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Blades of helicopters slice incessantly through the western Wisconsin sky.

“Security Forces is finding people in a search and rescue exercise. They’re finding people and they’re evaluating their needs and they’re sending them out on helicopters, in case they need medical care,” explains Lt. Col. Sarah Ashley Nickloes of the U.S. Air Force and Tennessee Air National Guard.

National Guard soldiers and airmen, alongside civilian emergency crews, lift mannequins and live actors onto stretchers.

Wikipedia Public Domain

Summer is baseball season, and many Northwoods residents enjoy playing the game in local leagues or watching professionals on television.  A few of those professional players have found the Northwoods equally appealing, and more than one has called the town of Three Lakes home.  One of them was first baseman Fred Luderus.  

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Full hides of brown and black leather are draped over a cart and wheeled by a worker from place to place in the maze-like Weinbrenner Shoe Company factory in Merrill.

“Not everybody realizes what goes into making the shoe. I always tell people, if you get a chance to tour a shoe factory, take it,” says Rick Hass, a costing engineer serving as a tour guide of the factory floor.

The factory, which produces premium shoes and boots sold under the Thorogood brand, dates to 1936.

It has low ceilings, some dark corners, and worker after worker focused on their task.

Wisconsin Historical Society

One of the more colorful aspects of Northwoods history is that 1930s-era gangsters such as Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson, and John Dillinger spent time in the region.  But they were just visitors.  One famous gangster from that era found the Northwoods so appealing that he made it his permanent home. 


Here is an old story and a new story.  Unfortunately, both involve the death of some of our favorite birds because of complications resulting from aquatic invasive species. 

KSN TV Facebook

In this episode of Wildlife Matters, the Masked Biologist looks at a news story from the west coast that involved bears, dogs, people, and at least one bad decision.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Hans Breitenmoser Jr.’s mother and father came to northern Wisconsin as Swiss immigrants, searching for the American Dream.

“My parents started here in 1968. I was born in 1969. They made their career of this farm,” Breitenmoser said Wednesday. “They started out with 20 cows.”

The Merrill-area farm grew, and so did the family’s passion for the land, the career, and each other.

“My father just passed away in February at age 82. He’s buried right over there,” Breitenmoser said, choking up as he pointed to the road. “He made a good career.”

Courtesy of Thomas Dault

An equilibrist is an acrobat who performs daring feats of uncanny balance.  This includes tightrope walkers, trapeze artists, tumblers, or any sort of skilled human balancing act.  A daredevil is a recklessly and often ostentatiously daring person.  When the two are combined you get Rhinelander’s own Daredevil Dault. 

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Visitors to the shop floor at AirPro Fan in Rhinelander are greeted by a wall of sound and activity.

Forklifts dart here and there, welders send sparks flying, and industrial fans are moved from one place to another by ceiling-mounted lifts.

“What you’re going to see is all sorts of things going on, welding, machining, all sorts of things,” said AirPro’s Lori Miller on a recent tour.

One worker was slathering thick grease on a fan, applying the finishing touches.

Wikipedia Public Domain

Memorial Day was established to honor those who have died in American wars.  There are many images that people look to when remembering those who served, but few images are more iconic than the Marine Corps War Memorial that depicts the flag raising at Iwo Jima in 1945.  For many years it was thought an Antigo native was part of that photo, but was he? 


Although still somewhat unusual, sightings of sandhill cranes in fields, meadows and wetlands of the Northwoods are increasingly common. Sandhill cranes are currently a nongame species, but could that change?

WAOW Television

Walk into any restaurant in downtown Minocqua or Eagle River, and chances are it’s understaffed.

“If you drive around town, you’ll see pretty much every business has a ‘We’re Hiring’ or ‘Need Help’ sign out there,” said Stephen Coon, whose family owns Coontail Market in Boulder Junction and stores across Northern Wisconsin.

Coon is struggling to find enough employees this season.

Wisconsin Historical Society

Many people in the Northwoods have gotten vaccinated against Covid-19, but a significant minority continues to resist vaccination.  The reasoning against vaccination usually revolves around uncertainty for health and safety, and for reasons of civil liberties.  These are old arguments, and not so different as those used during the smallpox epidemic. 


In recent days, a report titled “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful” was released in response to one of President Biden’s first Executive Orders. The Masked Biologist pulls this report apart and shares some highlights in this week’s Wildlife Matters.