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Logging & Heritage Festival a go
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EagleHerald staff writer

MARINETTE—The City of Marinette steeps with individual and community stories from the ancient culture of the Menominee tribe to the longshoremen and lumber shovers guiding that once critical product of Wisconsin industry down the Menominee River.

The whispers and remnants of the city’s heritage and history permeate nostalgically, proudly, intriguingly and sometimes mysteriously through every inch of land, brick and mortar, ancient tree and individual now residing within the City of Marinette.

And this summer, on July 10, one of Marinette’s cherished celebrations and a seminal northeast Wisconsin festival, returns to celebrate the area’s heritage. Albeit, a temporarily scaled-down version of its former gala.

Since 2011, every July, Marinette packed three days of food, fun, music and other activities into an event that honored and commemorated its rich cultures, traditions and legacies: the annual Logging & Heritage Festival. For nine years after, the festival continued to bring area residents and outside tourists a summer jamboree of entertainment. Volunteer-run and supported largely by donations, the festival can sometimes draw over 15,000 people to Marinette, with many activities centralized on Stephenson Island.

However, last year’s dark descent of COVID-19 cast a heavy shadow across a quiet and deserted Stephenson Island at a time when the park would usually be brimming with the festival’s activity. For some that cancellation dashed the hearts of lumberjack hopefuls, history buffs and many others looking for a weekend excursion to the prevalent Marinette festival.

Area residents lost more than just entertainment, that year.

As once noted by longtime festival chairperson and coordinator, now retired, Judy Alwin, the festival runs much deeper than the joy it brings. In a few short words, she embodied the meaning of the festival during a 2013 interview with the EagleHerald.

“People are learning what Marinette is all about and that we have a heritage,” Alwin said in that interview. “Marinette is not just a name; it’s our heritage and I think that’s something people and kids need to learn like what our forefathers did for us. We all have to learn about our community and celebrate us.”

But last year, across the nation, communities like Marinette confronted the proliferation of pandemic and subsequent economic impacts wrought on local businesses. Community festival cancellations became the norm as efforts to allay the COVID spread and secure the health and safety of the nation took priority. In Marinette, city officials acted to cancel several other entertainment events besides the Logging and Heritage Festival, such as many events slated at the Community REC Center. Additionally, in Marinette, another driving force behind the decision to ax the festival stemmed from the economic burdens faced by local businesses at the time.

“(Last year) we just didn’t have the donations that we normally have,” said Lana Bero, City Clerk and this year’s festival chairperson. “And the city didn’t want to put that additional burden on their donors in the middle of a pandemic.”

The 2020 festival committee captured that weighted melancholy with crestfallen words in a Facebook post by Chairman Kent Kostelecky and Bero.

“It is with GREAT sadness that the Logging and Heritage Festival Committee has made the decision to cancel the 2020 … Festival. The decision weighed heavily on the committee but with the COVID-19 pandemic being a huge concern and making the health and welfare of the community our first priority, it was a decision that had to be made.”

A GRADUAL COMEBACK

As communities throughout the nation continue addressing efforts on recovery and ongoing financial hardships, the Marinette officials felt a toned-down version of the festival aligned better with continued recovery this summer.

“Because we are still not out of the woods yet and there are still restrictions, we thought about bringing (the festival) back slowly,” Bero told the EagleHerald during the April Common Council meeting.

As such, the festival will represent a low-key version of its usual multi-event jubilee production, which is usually broadcast throughout Wisconsin in months and weeks leading up to the event. While the festival returns this year, July 10, it will span only a single day and not an entire weekend as is the usual case. Additionally, a more subdued advertising strategy, dedicated primarily to the local Marinette market and surrounding communities will promote the event. And because it is not a full-fledged festival, organizers and not counting it as the “10{sup}th{/sup} annual” festival. It will resume count when the full three-day event returns next year.

“We are keeping it more of a centralized community event,” said Marinette Director of Tourism & Marketing Melissa Ebsch. “Normally, in the past, we would advertise heavily outside the Marinette area on billboard and radio and some print. But with the event only being one day we are marketing (primarily) in our region.”

Social media will also provide a promotional platform. As the date of the festival approaches, interested individuals can check out the Marinette Logging & Heritage Festival Facebook page or the city website (marinette.wi.us) for more information not the festival.

“It may not be a three-day event but at least we are able to hold something for the community that we have always done,” Ebsch said.

During the Marinette Common Council’s April meeting, the city delved into some of the planning details and actions to bring the festival to fruition. Alderpersons approved two entertainment agreements that promise mesmerizing and marvelous magic alongside some rip-roaring, heart-stopping, two-wheeled aerobatics. Those approvals procured two entertainment companies for the festival, Mischief & Magic and the Division BMX stunt team for the one-day event on Stephenson Island.

Importantly, and in light of the lingering pandemic financial fallout, Bero expressed gratitude for the generous funding that makes the festival possible each year and especially this year, after so many businesses and former donors experienced challenges due to the significant pandemic-related economic hardship. As of Friday, according to Bero’s current tabulations, the current event donations from area businesses and non-profits totaled $7,450.

“We are very happy that our sponsors really came to us this year and were willing to help us out,” she said. “We are still trying to finalize some of the (festival plans), but we have the main contracts booked … and of those contracts, we have already fulfilled (their costs) from donations.”

Aside from non-profit food vendors, Mischief & Magic, Division BMX and other activities, two local bands, “The Dirty Martinis” and “Rosebrook,” will weave the musical ambiance. And then, of course, comes the traditional and spectacular festival conclusion, which lures all eyes skyward to absorb the bold colors and reverberations of the big fireworks show at dusk … and perhaps, a glimpse of brighter times to come.

And in a similar fashion, Bero peered with optimism to 2022.

“We are full force next year, for a full three-day huge festival,” she said.

 

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Overcrowding a concern at Marinette County Jail
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EagleHerald Editor

MARINETTE—Vacancy is limited in the hoosegow. Space is tight at the crow bar hotel. It’s crowded in the pokey.

No matter how you slice it or what you call it, the Marinette County Jail in the Law Enforcement Center on University Drive is facing issues with overcrowding.

And it’s a serious problem.

Jail Administrator Bob Majewski told the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee Friday that the population as of Thursday was 134 inmates, plus another 10 who are awaiting transfer to prison and about 15 who have work release privileges.

“So add it all together and we’re at about 160,” said Majewski, also the committee chairman. “It’s not only the number of inmates; it’s what these subjects bring with them. There is a big number of medical issues. Our nurses are working crazy.”

He said during one recent stretch, 14 inmates were going through detox at one time; there are a handful of mentally ill inmates who must be segregated; and they have an 84-year-old (double murder suspect Raymond Vannieuwenhoven) who needs special attention.

The average daily head count in March was 135.42 inmates, the highest March total since 2017 and the third highest total since 2004. The jail’s capacity is 164 beds.

“This committee was formed 20 years ago because of jail overcrowding,” Sheriff Jerry Sauve said. “We are there again.”

The sheriff said he didn’t want to discuss adding more staff or putting another pod on the Law Enforcement Center at this time.

WHY HIGH NUMBERS?

The CJCC includes members of various segments of the criminal justice system (law enforcement, jail, judiciary, prosecution, defense, mental health, probation and parole and more) and they agree that drug activity is a large part of the current problem.

“It seems like there’s a lot of people in this county or coming through the county that want to be a meth chemist,” Majewski quipped, referring to the high amount of methamphetamine crimes. “We are having an outrageous number of meth cases.”

He said of 87 pre-sentence felonies, about 90% are for some type of drug crime. District Attorney DeShea Morrow concurred, stating that in the last three weeks her office had handled about 50 arrests with most being drug related.

Circuit Judge Jim Morrison pointed out that 42 people are in the jail for possession of methamphetamine or possession with intent to deliver.

“How many of those people can we have on the street?,” he said. “Certainly none of the manufacturers or deliverers. Those are the people providing it for everybody else.

“This is a dangerous situation. These are people you do not want to invite home for dinner.”

Morrison said he sentenced a man to jail recently and told him, “I’m doing this to save your life because you will use again.”

He said the man replied, “Yes I would judge, thank you.”

Committee members also pointed to the fine work done by law enforcement in the county.

“Some of these officers know the people they should be looking for,” Morrison said. “The problem is your officers are too darn good.”

Sauve added, “I will not stifle the good work of our law enforcement out in the field, much to the chagrin of Bob (Majewski) and his (jail) staff who at times are crying uncle.“

In some cases, it seems, drug criminals are making it too easy on the law.

“Explain to me why somebody with $25,000 worth of heroin in their car, drives a car into town without a headlight or taillight or an expired license tag?,” Morrison asked.

Morrow said some arrests are made after simple welfare checks, while Sauve said a game warden was checking someone’s fishing license and found 12 pounds of marijuana in his car.

“They do such a good job,” Morrison said of law enforcement. “This doesn’t happen in other counties. I talk to my colleagues. Your guys are looking to use traffic as an opportunity to enforce bigger laws. I don’t know if that’s training or a policy.”

Once the suspects get to court, Sauve credits the judges (Morrison and Jane Sequin) and others involved with doing good work.

“When I’m directing a traffic of orange (jump suits), I watch the judges agonize,” the sheriff said. “How do we keep them out (of jail)? They are wanted someplace else and they have a high bond over there or they are wanted for something else. They need to stay in jail. That’s where we are at. I don’t think we have people right now (in jail) that don’t need to be in jail.”

Morrow said during the onset of COVID-19 last year, suspects were given court dates to return. “They did not come back to court,” she said.

Both Morrison and defense attorney Bradley Schraven said Marinette County is one of the quickest in the state to get cases through the system, from arrest to sentencing. That’s despite a low supply of lawyers, compared to the high demand, according to Schraven.

A TOUGH JOB

The high volume of inmates is making it difficult on corrections officers (CO) and others at the jail, Sauve said.

He said he just had a CO resign, so he now is down two officers and interviews are set for later this month.

“It’s as challenging time in jail operations as I can remember right now,” Sauve said, adding that the jail is becoming unsafe with too many problem inmates.

“I can see the tension on the staff,” Sauve continued. “It’s difficult working there right now. It really is. We are short (staff), we have problem inmates. We have a lot going on around the clock.”

Morrison pointed to an example of five deputies plus Sauve in the video conference room at the jail to watch over one inmate because he was potentially dangerous.

“And that was inside the jail,” the judge said.

Schraven mentioned an example of a suspect picking up a table and tossing it in (now retired) judge Dave Miron’s courtroom because he didn’t like a sentence.

“It’s very hard on the jail staff,” Majewski said.

Sauve added, “We’re having difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

Majewski asked everyone on the committee if they could email him with any ideas they have to curb the problem. The CJCC normally meets quarterly, but it may hold a special meeting if there is a need.

“It all comes down to bed days,” Majewski said. “The amount of time an individual stays in jail counts. If it can be dropped by two bed days … anything can help. We need to look at how our system is functioning and if there are any improvements that can be done inside that system to help alleviate this.”

He added that the committee’s job is to look at issues like this and see if something needs to be addressed.

“Then let’s address it,” Majewski said. “We will be in a world of hurt if we don’t.”


Ashley Nyman uses a steady hand to paint no parking spots in the parking lot Sunday at the Holiday Stationstore, 4010 Marinette Ave., Marinette. Nyman works for DIDiT Line Painting, owned by Jeff Wetthuhn of Wallace.


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Roughing it in City Park rustic wilds

EagleHerald staff writer

MARINETTE—For those with the more rustic and pioneering soul, who prefer spending their weekends and vacations amid the bucolic spaces of the great outdoors, pitching a tent—or maybe, just a sleeping bag—beneath the canopies of tall pines that rises up to a backdrop of endless stars, the City Park can now accommodate.

The Marinette Common Council recently approved a new ordinance that implements a $10 per night fee on eight new rustic campsites at City Park. For years, the park has offered nine RV (recreational vehicle) campsites that include connections to water and electricity. While those RV sites will remain, starting in May, when the park facilities reopen for the summer season, people searching for that rugged outdoor weekend of “roughing it” can lug their gear to the center of Marinette.

The new rustic sites serve tent campers and do not include water or electric hook-up.

The $10 rate for each site did not come without some discussion among council members as the rate hovers markedly below the rates of similar campsites across the state.

Alderman Doug Oitzinger, suggested the city raise the rate to a level more on par with other sites throughout the area, county and state.

“It just looks like we are trying to beat the lowest price on our camping fees,” Oitzinger said. “I did check with Menominee, Marinette County and the State of Wisconsin. I realize these are going to be rustic (campsites) but the State of Wisconsin charges, I think, $15 (per night for rustic sites), the county charges $15. And (those campgrounds) charge more for the electric sites than (Marinette City Park) as well. So I am just wondering if we shouldn’t bump that price up a couple of bucks.”

Confirming Oitzinger’s statement, a “Summer Camping Rates” brochure issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, lists camping fees for non-electric (rustic) campsites at various state parks and campgrounds. Those prices depend on the camper’s state residency status; whether they are reserving the site on a weekend or a weekday; and on the specific campground in question.

For residents, prices can range between $15 at the low end to a peak of $25. For non-residents, those costs bump up to $20 at the low end and $27 at the high.

Electric campsites follow a similar pattern but at costs that start out at $26 for residents and reach as high as $40 for non-residents. Again, various campgrounds range in prices, which also fluctuate between the weekdays and the weekends. In Marinette, electric campsites at City Park run at $20 per night.

Across the river, the City of Menominee River Park campground, which offers 54 modern campsites containing water, electric and sewer hookup, the rate is $35, according to its brochure. Additionally, River Park offers no rustic campsites.

“The Parks & Recreation Committee, I think, tried to look at what the appropriate fee should be,” said Mayor Steve Genisot. “We are developing those rustic sites … we are going to put in fire rings and picnic tables … and the committee made that ($10 per night) recommendation.”

Council President Dorothy Kowalski confirmed that prior to the development of new rustic sites, City Park never before offered that kind of camping option. Only the modern sites with electricity and water hook up existed. Kowalski also serves as the Parks & Recreation Committee Chairperson and she explained the committee carefully considered the rate.

“This will be the first time we’ve ever had (rustic sites) available,” she said. “The committee wanted to see how well it worked and if the people were getting what they needed … We felt that $10 was a good place to start. And if we need to go up next near, then we could raise it next year.”

According to the Genisot, this first year serves as a “starting point,” a trial run to determine the frequency of usage and costs of upkeep at the sites.

According to Recreation Superintendent Adrienne Lacy the addition of rustic campsites simply allows for the accommodation of more campsites and also the opportunity for those who prefer tent camping over the modernization of the RV. The new sites lie just south of the RV sites.

CITY PARK + STATE STREET RECONSTRUCTION = SLIGHT DELAY

Additionally, throughout the pandemic, City Park facilities remained permanently closed. However, Lacy confirmed that the park will open for the summer season. However, that opening date will occur slightly later than the usual May 1 date. That delay stems from the city’s continued improvements to State Street as it finishes up reconstruction of the portion of street the extends through the park.

“So we won’t actually open the campsites this year until May 28,” she said.

After almost a year, cooped up and collecting dust, raising the tent and pitching the sleeping bag under the Milky Way at City Park might just be the breath of fresh are one needs to clear the mind of COVID woes.


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