We Live Up Here

WXPR's We Live Up Here series is a home for stories that focus on the people, history, and culture that make the Northwoods of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan such a unique place to live.

You can keep track of We Live Up Here and all of WXPR's local features on the WXPR Local Features podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.

Image by Jim Skibo

The Northwoods has long been known for its active art community. Jim Skibo visited two local artists to learn how the COVID-19 restrictions have changed their art and the way it is sold.

image by paulbr75 on pixabay.com

A logical result of the pandemic and a weakened economy would be a sluggish real estate market in the Northwoods and elsewhere. Instead, real estate purchases are booming in many parts of the country including the Northwoods. Ironically, the pandemic and stay at home orders may be behind a recent surge in local real estate purchases.

Jim Skibo

When the Wolf River reached record levels late in July, the raft and tube rental concessions closed because of concerns for rider safety. But for experienced canoe and kayak paddlers, like Brian Heikenen and Martin Dawson, this was, perhaps, a once in a lifetime experience. Heikenen checks the USGS gauge in Langlade almost daily.

“Early on Monday morning this was the highest flow that gauge had ever recorded. It topped out at about 2950 CFS.”

Bruce Greenhill

The 1920s were known as the golden age for the construction of grand, opulent theaters, called “movie palaces.” While most of these epically built theaters have been either shuttered, repurposed, or demolished, one “palace,” the Historic Ironwood Theatre, has not only persevered but still retains its vibrant and elegant charm.

Jim Skibo

When Joseph and Myrtle Kretz established Kretz Lumber in 1929, it was just a small sawmill. Today the company just south of Antigo is an employee-owned global company that has expanded into other areas including forest management, education, and now a fine craftsman line, which sells directly to small commercial woodworkers along with hobbyists.

Langlade County Health Officer Meghan Williams’ guidance to people in the Northwoods might sound familiar. It is like the guidance you may have heard from many county health officers.

“We are continuing to follow CDC guidelines. So that includes staying at home as much as possible, physical distancing of six feet between people who are not in your household, wearing a mask when in public, washing hands frequently and disinfecting those high touch surfaces,” she says.

Some people in the area are following those guidelines closely. Plenty of other people are not.

Min-Aqua Bats

There are many things that make the Northwoods unique, like supper clubs, the Old Fashioned, and summers on the lake. To that list you can add waterski shows. There are more waterski teams in Wisconsin than in any other state.   The Minocqua ski team has been in existence for over 70 years.

Eileen Persike/Star Journal

The death of George Floyd and the resulting protests have brought scrutiny to all police forces with many people calling for radical change in their practices. This is true in the large metropolitan police forces, but it also is at the forefront of the rural police forces in our Northwoods.

Northland Pines School District

For graduating seniors in Northwoods high schools, things have not gone as planned. Besides having to do online learning, missing out on the prom and spring sports, the school year is ending with virtual graduations. And for those students planning to go to college this fall, there is still uncertainty how that will go.

Humane Society of Marathon County

Across the county, pet adoptions have seen a dramatic increase since the beginning of the pandemic. In areas where the virus is more prevalent, some shelters have even run out of dogs and cats for adoption. Although local Northwoods shelters still do have animals available, there has been a notable increase in the number of adoptions. Jim and Debbie Boman, of Merrill, recently adopted Delilah, a Labrador-Pitbull mix from the Humane Society of Marathon County.

Pixabay

Many in the Northwoods do not have access to high speed broadband internet. That’s a critical gap in modern living, especially with the health emergency keeping people at home. State grants through the Public Service Commission have recently been awarded to some communities and counties to help remedy the situation.

Pixabay

Since Gov. Evers mandated the closure of schools on Mar. 13, educators have been scrambling to teach remotely. In the Northwoods, the level of instruction varies considerably based primarily on the availability of high-speed internet in the households of students.

LAMBA

If this were a normal spring, people would be starting to travel to the Northwoods to enjoy the outdoors. The state, however, is encouraging people to stay in their own communities and avoid travel for recreation. But for those of us who live up here, the Northwoods offers hundreds of miles of biking trails and country roads that make great cycling routes.

Jamee Peters, vice president of the Langlade Area Mountain Bike Association (LAMBA) describes the type of trails available in eastern Langlade County.

Jim Skibo

Many Wisconsin State Parks have closed along with National Forest recreation areas, leaving many to seek different ways to enjoy the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wolf River, which starts in Forest County and runs through the entire length of Langlade County, offers opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the Northwoods while practicing social distancing.

Bill Kallner has been fishing the Wolf River for decades. Each time he visits the river he enjoys the beauty and solitude.

Yelp

When we think of the Northwoods, one thing that comes to mind is the Supper Club. These iconic restaurants, along with all nonessential business, have been closed to in-person business as a result of the COVID-19 virus. These closures have supper club owners wondering about their future. They also have concerns about their laid off workers, the companies that supply them with food and beverages, and their patrons who are unable to enjoy the establishments that are part of their lives.

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