A look back at 2017 in the Antigo area (w/ photo gallery)
By Craig Marx, Editor
This past year was particularly interesting for citizens of Langlade County, whereas the year began with a shakeup of grandiose proportions in the local law enforcement and county government levels.
Sheriff Bill Greening announced his early retirement in late 2016 over concerns raised by lack of cooperation with the county board, human resources and his own department. Providing a letter to local media outlets expressing these concerns, Deputy Sheriff John Schunke took over the position in the interim until Mark Westen was appointed to the permanent position by state authorities.
An unfortunate result of the ongoing investigation and tumultuous aftermath resulted in the suicide of Langlade County’s former human resources director, Raymond Weitz.
The ongoing issue of school board rezoning and district alignment also came to a head early in the year as the Unified School District of Antigo held special sessions to gain input and provide information on a number of growing issues within the region, most notably the incorporation or independence of an autonomous Mattoon School District.
The Unified School District of Antigo school board voted overwhelmingly in favor of not allowing a voting referendum for the creation of a separate Mattoon School District at a meeting on Tuesday, January 10. The final resolution was met with an 8-1 vote to pass the denial request, with board member Dr. Patrick McKenna the only representative to vote in favor of the referendum.
The creation of a new Mattoon School District stemmed from an ongoing request from members of the Mattoon community to create and operate their own self-governing educational body separate from the Unified School District of Antigo (USDA), which closed the Mattoon School this past year. With children dispersed to adjacent schools such as Crestwood Elementary, concerns amongst community members over transportation times and educational quality brought forth a number of special meetings and hearings to allow Mattoon residents to express their problems and new ideas.
Later in the year, after reviews and public opines directed towards the board, the consolidation efforts were solidified. The closures and consolidation procedures will begin in the fall of 2018.
After the terrible incidents of the Antigo High School prom shooting in April of 2016, the new motto and mantra of Antigo Pride Week in February helped to promote the civic attributes of being safe, respectful and responsible.
Sixth-grader Julianna Bauknecht received much-deserved recognition for her work in donating to the Langlade County Humane Society, having been named a 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards State Honoree for her dedicated and selfless work with her non-profit animal welfare organization Caring Paws.
Two local tournaments held earlier this year went on to help two great causes in the Antigo area. Matt Young, an AHS student that was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma this past year, had a chance to see the community come together and play floor hockey in a benefit for his recovery with Cross Checking Cancer, held at the Antigo Middle School in February. Concurrently, the Antigo Fire Department held its Broomball Blitz to raise money for the department’s new fire extinguisher training system. Bradley Funeral Home came away as broomball’s noted champions.
At a nighttime shooting in Weston on February 17, a Bryant man identified as Nicholas Houdek was found deceased in the parking lot of Wiggly Field when emergency personnel arrived.
Gifted school district administrator Brian Misfeldt announced his departure this past spring, moving back to his home area and school district of Bloomer. Misfeldt was instrumental in helping provide research and information in the midst of the much-debated consolidation discussions. Current administrator Colleen Timm replaced Misfeldt this past summer.
With a shorter winter than usual, an abnormal series of wind storms caused multiple power outages and damage in Langlade County early in March. Included in the damages were three local law enforcement vehicles that were totaled as the result of a tree coming down on top of them while parked outside at the Langlade County Safety Building, along with a large-scale power outage that left north side businesses without power overnight.
After months of fundraising and a few days exploring the cultural Mecca that is New York City, the AHS Canto Voce choir performed at the one-and-only Carnegie Hall in March as a member of the Distinguished Concerts International New York, performing “I Hear America Singing: The Music of Andrew Thomas and Greg Gilpin.”
Canto Voce performed alongside other young chorus members from around the country.
The choir left on Thursday, March 16 and returned the following Monday after the epic performance. The East Coast excursion included a tour of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, carriage rides through the city, and a showing of Aladdin at The New Amsterdam Theatre.
Canto Voce self-funded the entire trip through fundraising activities – almost $40,000 worth – over the course of last year to finance the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play Carnegie Hall.
Jacob Rydberg, 21 at the time, was accused in November of 2016 with shouting vulgarities and committing damages to two area churches, St. John and St. Hyacinth Catholic Churches, in Antigo. Charges were made under the category of “[making a] terrorist threat” that were brought up on March 14 after a traffic stop when Rydberg began making threats to arresting officers.
In local elections, incumbent candidate Bill Brandt defeated Doug Nonnenmacher to 71% to 29% to maintain his mayoral office. In the highly-contested and extremely close race for four open school board positions – three full-term positions and one, two-year abridged interim seat – Noel Deep was the front runner of the five candidates with 2,209 votes at a 24% share of the district voting. John Schroeder received 2,142 votes (23%) while Danny Pyeatt secured 1,845 votes and the third full-term seat. Dr. Patrick McKenna received 1,736 votes, qualifying him for a two-year term on the board, while Roy Dieck had 1,201 votes, falling just short of securing a position with 13% of the voting percentage.
On the issue of the school board personnel referendum, mentioned earlier and requesting the reduction of board members from nine to five persons, the community overwhelmingly voted against the proposal with 1,974 nays to 885 votes in support.
The Antigo Rocks program got underway this past spring and caught on immensely, allowing locals to paint decorated stones and hide them for others to find and share. Inspired by a similar program in the Fox Valley, the Antigo chapter has been very successful as people that paint and hide their rocks also post and share their finds on social media.
In early May, a car traveling eastbound on 4th Avenue downtown ran a stop sign at 5th Avenue, striking another vehicle and causing both vehicles to be pushed up on the sidewalk near Boettcher’s Bar. The driver was believed to have had a seizure and both persons were treated at area hospitals.
In a bizarre attempt at counterfeiting, The Antigo Police Department received complaints regarding fake $50.00 bills being passed around the community. The bills had Chinese markings on the bills and were not legal tender. The APD anticipates there might be other denominations of the fake bills being passed around.
Early summer storms caused excessive water levels in Northern Wisconsin, locally in particular Antigo Lake and Spring Brook, prompting the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to issue water safety warnings.
Father Robert Obol was hired at Aspirus Langlade Hospital as its new chaplain last winter and shared his story with the Antigo community, a story that began in war-torn Uganda and takes us through to his present service in Langlade County. Obol shared his thoughts on escaping the harrowing times he spent growing up in Africa with his recent book “The Life and Lessons from a Warzone.”
A destructive motorcycle accident in Portage County claimed the life of Robert Korhonen and severely injured Stacey Zarda early in July. Billie Jo McSherry, from Tigerton, drunkenly hit the father and daughter on their motorcycle after swerving over the center line. Zarda has since made an amazing recovery and is back in Antigo following tremendous support from the community through the “Stacey Strong” program.
MC Country Fest brought the spirit of Fudd Fest back to Langlade County, where the venue near Held’s Bar in Deerbrook once again held country musicians and a party atmosphere for the first time since 2013.
A 45-year old man, Kevin Harris, was killed near the Taphouse bar when he was struck by a vehicle in the alleyway south of the building. After a lengthy investigation period and the dropping of charges against one suspect, no charges since have been brought about.
Antigo celebrated its Homecoming Week with a holiday theme, taking festivities from throughout the year and celebrating them during the course of one week late in September. Coach Gordy Schofield was also honored by past players and coaches at a banquet at North Star Lanes, occurring after the new generation of AHS players had secured a 7-0 win over Medford.
The Antigo ATV/UTV Club partnered with Make-A-Wish Wisconsin to help two young men by hosting its 10th Annual Charity Ride in Langlade County this past October. Featuring three days worth of trail rides, the event marked the first-ever partnership between the Antigo ATV/UTV chapter and the Make-A-Wish program to attract riders from around the state for a good cause.
A benefit for Eli Kassler, an 11-year old from Antigo who was recently diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and has a passion for hockey, was held with great success on November 11, featuring raffle prizes from NHL greats and immense support for the “Eli’s Warriors” campaign. The campaign is still ongoing and donations and information can be received at the group’s Facebook page.
The Antigo High School Soundsport Marching group, a new program for the AHS band, completed its season at the State Marching Band Championships on October 14th at UW-Whitewater’s Perkins Stadium. The group by far had its best performance of the season and their score rose almost four points from their previous competition earning a 67.7.
In a rather odd incident that occurred on the night of November 6th, a suspect was caught on camera after breaking into Langlade Ford north of Antigo, having gone on a destructive melee that lasted for nearly half an hour. The suspect broke a window at the north side dealership and entered the building around 9:30 PM. Cutting his hands in the process, the suspect left behind bloody handprints as he attempted to steal a car in the repair shop in addition to breaking into offices and attempting to smash a vending machine inside. Driving a car into a door of the dealership, the suspect was unable to get through the barrier and continued to look for other ways out of the building. After slipping and falling on the ground trying to get through a door that had locked behind him, the suspect exited the building through a garage window in the repair shop.
The Antigo Christmas Parade and Chili Cook-Off were held to a large turnout despite the voracious winds and arctic temperatures. Chili winners and exceptional float creations can be found at antigotimes.com.
As we get ready to enter this final week of 2017, we wish you best of luck from all of us at the Antigo Times in 2018 and hope you have a great holiday season.