"Wisconsin-Happy Festival State", by Eve Phillips. My husband and I love to travel in the state of Wisconsin where we live and get great pictures on the way. My name is Laurie Kutil and photography has become a great passion of mine since 2010. One thing I have learned in researching each town before visiting it is that, "Every town has it's story". When I do uncover those stories by connecting with local residents, our experience becomes so much richer. In turn, sharing the stories with you brings me joy :)
Harrisville is home of the ”LARGEST One Day Brat Fest in the State” and after seeing it for ourselves, we believe it! It is the 57th Bratfest. Harrisville is an unincorporated community located in the town of Harris, Marquette County, Wisconsin. The population is 729. First some of the history, the Harris Town Hall. It was built in 1899, Greek Revival in design.
Near the town hall is a flag pole with a plaque on a rock. It is the Harris Veterans Memorial.
On the side of the Sportman Club building on the fest grounds is a beautiful mural depicting Harris history. Click on picture to enlarge. It was completed 7-9-12. Learn more about other murals in Marquette County here.
Now back to Bratfest! Here is the schedule, plenty of fun to be had for people of all ages!
The community is small but hundreds of people come here from all over for this annual fundraiser for the Harris Volunteer Fire Department. There is a lot of entertainment to be had, pedal pulls for the kids, tractor pulls for the adults, volleyball, baseball, rides, music and more! After many years of Madison’s Brat Fest, it was fun going to one in a different community. The volleyball competition.
There was a pedal pull competion for the kids, we saw that too in Wonewoc during their Old Fashioned Day festival.
This is training for the Tractor Pull, also happening at this festival. Admission was $15 per person. We looked over the fence. The Harrisville Tractor Pullers Association has many competitions through the summer and fall. See their Facebook page for updates. Below is their BIG sled. The schedule for the day.
K & M Rides and Amusements LLC from Phillip, WI provided the carnival and even pony rides.
See the carnival and more in the video below.
Souvenir T-Shirts for sale too, I got one!
We heard music from two groups, the first one was Southbound. They are from Milwaukee. They played at the tent in the main fair grounds by the town hall and fire station.
The 2nd group was the Star Fire Family band from Readfield, WI. They were also wonderful! See a little of both groups on the video.
We had a great time at this Bratfest, different than the Johnsonville’s World’s Largest Brat Fest. The emphasis here is supporting one entity, the Harris Volunteer Fire Department. We’re glad we went. “Barney Brat” hopes you come back next year!
Rhinelander is a city of almost 8,000 in Oneida Co. It’s also the county seat. We have been wanting to come here for a long time, this gateway to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. We also wanted to see the mythical creature, the Hodag. It was “discovered” by Eugene Shepard in autumn of 1893. This is the famous picture that he used to prove it was real. He showed the hodag at the first Oneida County fair in a dimly lit tent. People were skeptical about this creature, but believed it just enough to run out of the tent screaming when Eugene made it move, marionette-style. The hodag is still part of Rhinelander mythos today, now turned from a scary monster to a cute mascot for the community.
The first place one should stop is the Chamber of Commerce, where you can take your picture with the Hodag and pick up area information. It is at 450 Kemp St. We did just that! Don’t worry, this one is tame and LOVES posing for pictures 🙂 There are many more scattered throughout town, we saw as many as we could. This is a sample, we counted about 20 but probably missed some. You can get Hodag souvenirs here too.
Hodags downtown, such works of art!
This video is a good summary of Hodag lore.
Lets take a look at the historic downtown, it was filled with many beautiful buildings.
The Merchants and Trust Building, the library was in a room there before the current building was built.
My favorite building is the Courthouse, beautiful day or night! This is the view shortly after sunrise, then 2 AM on July 8. The night is short there this time of year. The dome is Tiffany glass, VERY unusual. It glows green at night.
Closeup of the glass panels within each square that makes up the dome.
And at night, my favorite!
There are also historical markers on site.
This sounds strange, but we often make a cemetery one of our stops. We stopped at Forest Home Cemetery to see the sites of two notable people buried here. This cemetery is large and it was a challenge finding them. The hardest one was Eugene Shepard, the man who “found” the first Hodag in fall of 1893. For someone who is largely responsible for Rhinelander’s identity, his gravesite is very humble. Here it is, plus it’s coordinates.
N45º 37.867′ W089º 23.912
The other gravesite is John W. Heisman, founder of the Heisman Trophy. His is even more humble, it’s a flat marker. This is how we found it. Look for the Donaldson large monument, it is in front of that.
N45º 37.867′ W089º 23.973
We also saw a Packer house on 224 Sutliff Ave.
Rhinelander also has two museums. The Rhinelander Historical Society Museum on 9 South Pelham St. was not open, despite the sign saying it was open when we arrived at 2 PM on a Tuesday.
We were fortunate however to see the Rhinelander Logging Museum. It is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. the museum is located at 135 South Stevens Street at Pioneer Park. See next post to read about our experience there 🙂
We also had a great visit at Hodag Park, on the shores of Boom Lake. Here you will find the Hodag historical marker and several shelters and playground. There are also Hodag Water Shows in the summer.
Rhinelander has many restaurants. We ate at two of them. We had a dinner and breakfast at the Friendship House on 2260 Lincoln St . They open early which was great for our busy day of exploring. We were treated like regulars, the staff takes great pride in their work. Our coffee cup never had the chance to get empty. Chris told us proudly he made the pies, you know we had to have a piece! Al and I shared a piece of Strawberry Cream. Selection changes daily.
The other place is where “Around the Corner With John McGivern” visited, Joe’s Pasty Shop. We wanted a simple meal after spending Tuesday exploring all over town. The have four flavors ready-to-eat and many more you can bring home frozen ones to cook later. Delicious! View John’s entire visit to Rhinelander last summer.
We stayed two nights at the Days Inn downtown, only a block from the courthouse which made my night photo of it a short walk away. The only drawback is there is not a free continental breakfast. It was a good excuse to go back to the Friendship House after a fine dinner there the night before.
We have visited the WIsconsin Opry several times since 2011, and always had a good time. The performers are the Dickinson family and a few other members, and they have been entertaining guests every summer since 1979. Read here about them in greater detail.
Our first visit was 9-24-11 for Virgil’s Fall Festival. On the grounds is Cindy’s Cafe, Antique Mall and Craft Mall, and the Opry building. Just down the road is their Dinner Barn where we ate last June 20 before the show. A big sign greets you upon entering the driveway.
Lots of great fall color!
We had lunch at Cindy’s Cafe, what a lot of fun! Specials were great fall soups..
We got that and paninis, yum!
Butternut Squash soup
During lunch Virgil and Cynthia Dickinson and another perform put on an impromtu show! I shot the video before Cindy came in.
Cynthia and Virgil Dickinson (L-R)
We had such a great time we came back for the whole show on June 20, 2012. Top video is from that show. We had a home-cooked turkey dinner at the dinner barn first.
Pre-show turkey dinner
While we were eating we were entertained and we also sang along to a few songs before adjourning to the show barn.
What a great show, the Dickinsons’ really know how to entertain and make you feel like part of the family. My husband and I recommend to anyone who likes classic country and gospel music.