Wisconsin State Cow Chip Scrapbook

August 29, 2012

wisconsin state cow chip throw and festival

Since 1975, when the Sauk Prairie Jaycees recognized the twin villages of Sauk City and Prairie du Sac as the cow chip capital of Wisconsin, the community has annually organized the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival.

While it’s not likely to be an Olympic event anytime soon, there were a plethora of nominations for local chip-chucking legend and 10-time world cow chip throwing champion, Kay Hankins, back in the mid-1980s when Wheaties held a nationwide search for sports champion to grace the front of their cereal box. Though a champion, Kay did not make the cover.

The event is held each Labor Day weekend. Festivities for this 37th year kick off on Friday with a corporate cow chip toss and live entertainment. Saturday begins with 5k and 10k run/walks, with the proceeds going back into the community to fund charities, youth-centered activities, and college scholarships. The kids start off the cow chip throw in the morning and that is followed by the Tournament of Chips parade at noon. The rest of the day has activities for everyone — a fine arts and crafts fair, cow chip throws for all ages, a beer garden and food court, pedal tractor pulls for the kids, community displays, and three stages of entertainment including one that is specifically for children.

Cow chip deflectors are available at the event, should anything fly your way.

picking cow chips

chucking a chip

pedal pull seating

pedal pull contestant

pedal pull trophies

magician props

feeding sheep

livestock treats

saint vince

Jodi Anderson

Snapshots of Heritage

May 31, 2012

750 Seventh Street

Late last year, I heard the first murmurings of a substantial dry plate glass negative collection at the Sauk Prairie Area Historical Society, the majority of which had not yet been scanned, much less identified, nor entered into the museum’s records. Around that same time, Jody Kapp, director of development at SPAHS, procured a grant through Heritage Credit Union that enabled the development of an educational photographic program for elementary school children as well as the purchase of a new scanner, with which the century-old negatives could be digitally preserved.

Ochsner bird collection at Tripp Museum in Prairie du Sac

To kick off the program, half a dozen groups of second and fifth graders visited Tripp Museum this spring to learn about the history of photography. They were first introduced to several types of vintage photo processes and taught about composition. Afterwards, everyone had an opportunity to compose drawings, using what they had learned in the presentation, and to design a cyanotype, which developed outdoors and was then taken inside for a quick bath. These are now on display.

Children (and adults!) who visit this summer are invited to use one of the museum’s digital cameras to take photos, which can then be emailed to the photographer and may be posted to the historical society’s Facebook page. “Our goal is to not only help people understand the importance of photography in capturing the stories of a people,” says Jody, “but also to interest them in learning how to make their own well-thought-out compositions so they too can help preserve the people, places, and things that are important to them through photography.”

School kids working on cyanotype creations

In late March, I began working with fellow society members and volunteer archivists, Jack Berndt and Verlyn Mueller, helping to scan, identify, and catalog the vast glass negative collection. We have thus far archived 132 images and believe that there are approximately 300+ left. Some of the photos had been previously printed, and it was a great pleasure to realize that the society has the originals, while the majority have not really seen the light of day in more than a century. Farm scenes, newly-built houses, social venues, and landscape portraits are common themes, and it was certainly expected that those sorts of things would be uncovered. Less expected are what appears to be an 1899 trip to New Orleans, photos of photos, and touching memorials for deceased community members.

Many of these images have been printed and enlarged, and they are on display now through November 17 in the Mueller Gallery on the first floor. The entire collection, as it is unveiled, will be presented as a slideshow that you can see when visiting. The public is invited to help identify the people, places, and events depicted in the images. In conjunction with this exhibition, there are a variety of vintage cameras and photo-related equipment on display, such as an old US Army projector, several magic lanterns, varied types of photography, and much more.

Verlyn inspecting a dry plate glass negative

Tripp Museum is located at 565 Water Street in Prairie du Sac and generally open Fridays and Saturdays from 9 am – 1 pm, or throughout the week by appointment. Call 608.644.8444 or email (spahs@frontier.com) for more information. While there, be sure to check out the Bradford Bison [Bison Occidentalis], on long-term loan from the University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum, which was discovered locally by then seven-year-old Joshua Bradford in 2005, and returned to SPAHS this year. There are also tickets available for the Bradford Bison Quilt Raffle, drawing to be held at the “Brunch with a Bison” community party on Sunday, July 1, 2012.

Ed Steuber gives a driving lesson near Prairie du Sac[Edna Graff and Edwin Steuber, Stella Carpenter and Leta Bernhard Stelter]

Jodi Anderson

The Shape of a Place

August 11, 2011

I’ve only seen it in pictures, but lately the Ashland skyline has captured my imagination. Perched on Lake Superior’s shore since 1916, the Ashland ore dock dominates the silhouette of the small northern Wisconsin city. And from what both residents and travelers tell me, this dock inspires awe. It stands 80 feet tall and stretches 1,800 feet–or about a third of a mile–into the lake.

Ashland native Michael Sullivan submitted the photo of the ore dock that appeared on Portal Wisconsin’s homepage last week (also seen above). He writes: “I grew up in Ashland and the oredock has always been a symbol of home–whether coming from the east or the west into Ashland, you knew you were home when you saw the oredock. As kids, we used to ride our bikes out to the end and there would always be people fishing from it. It’s one of the last remnants, I believe, of what Ashland was at one time.”

By all accounts, Ashlanders love their ore dock. Just last year, mural artists Sue Martinsen and Kelly Meredith paid it tribute in paint, when they completed a life-sized ore dock mural in downtown Ashland as part of the city’s historic Mural Walk. (The mural “truly is as long as the ore dock is long, and as high,” Sue tells me.) The City Council proclaimed it a local landmark in 2002.  Even the public school sports teams are called the Oredockers.

The ore dock remains as a monument to the area’s maritime culture, but not for long. Once used to load ore boats destined for eastern steel mills,  it hasn’t been employed for shipping purposes since the 1960s.  Now the ore dock’s fate rests in the hands of current owner Canadian National Railway, which has plans to dismantle it. Repairing the disintegrating structure would be too costly, the company says, and they have public liability concerns. A couple of years ago, a pair of endangered peregrine falcons nested on the ore dock and thwarted demolition for a while. Then the city raised water quality and right-of-way issues, stalling the process further. But with permitting issues resolved just this month, demolition could begin soon.

What happens to a community when its shape–perhaps its very identity–is so distinctly altered? It’s a fascinating and complicated story, one I’ll continue to follow.

–Tammy Kempfert


Schroeder’s Hotels

February 3, 2011

Last April I wrote about the Schroeder Hotels in Wisconsin after a visit to the Retlaw in Fond du Lac. Among Walter Schroeder’s properties was the Northland Hotel in Green Bay.

Northland Hotel

The Northland Hotel in Green Bay

The Green Bay Press-Gazette has posted images of the building, now the Port Plaza Towers apartments. You’ll find a handful of contemporary images and a good selection of historic photos including events at the hotel and images during and shortly after construction.

For more on the 1924 hotel and its history, check out Packerland Annals, an informative blog that covers a range of topics including history and urban design.


Teens view their world ‘In a New Light’

January 14, 2011

My Mother's Teardrop. Photo: Dakota, age 14.

By Tammy Kempfert, PortalWisconsin.org

“If you think about it, a lot of successful artists had troubled youths,” said Ben Thwaits of Spooner. He teaches at Northwest Passage, a residential mental health treatment center for teenagers. Last week, we talked by phone about an inspiring youth project he developed with his wife Branda, a National Park Service Ranger.

Funded by an America’s Best Idea grant,  “In a New Light” connects boys enrolled at Northwest Passage to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway through photography. The project relies on the combined powers of art and nature to help restore a sense of dignity and wholeness to troubled teens’ lives.

Thwaits told me that a student who winds up in his all-male class may have faced any number of roadblocks to a healthy childhood—problems like substance abuse, harmful relationships or developmental disorders. Some have had truancy issues and haven’t attended school for years. But along the St. Croix River and behind the camera lens, Thwaits’ students thrive. When I asked why, he surmised:

Photography involves the quest to find the emotional essence of a subject, and it can take photographers a long time to get into that way of thinking. But whatever their challenges, a lot of these boys are truly emotionally brilliant, and they have so much pent-up emotional energy. They operate on gut instincts and often make emotion-based decisions. This project gives them an outlet for their emotional, expressive, creative sides.

A video filmed for the project by Black Ice Productions shows a few of the boys in action:

A nature-based treatment facility, Northwest Passage takes advantage of its close proximity to the St. Croix Riverway to administer its programming. However, the program traditionally has used the adventure model—hiking, canoeing, camping—to incorporate nature into its curricula. “In a New Light” approaches nature therapy from a new angle, so to speak. According to Thwaits:

With this project, we’re really immersing ourselves in this beautiful and wild place in a quiet and introspective manner … I could almost see the boys’ brains slowing down; I could see them focusing. These are some of the most severe cases of ADHD that you’ll see in a teenaged boy, and yet they’ll spend hours and hours on end looking at a bird, a flower or a frog.

The "In a New Light" exhibition is on view at Wisconsin's State Capitol Building through January 22. Photo: Ben Thwaits.

An exhibition of the students’ work has already traveled from St. Croix Falls to Wausau,  and is on view now through January 22 at the  State Capitol Rotunda in Madison. Each photograph includes commentary, or in some cases poetry, from the boys themselves.

Student photographers participated in artist receptions at two of the exhibitions, events that Thwaits called “magic, truly pivotal moments in the boys’ lives.” At one reception a student was overheard saying, “That’s the first time in my life I’ve ever gotten an adrenaline rush from doing something good.”

Thwaits  credits a whole community of partners with the project’s success. The Wisconsin Arts Board, Black Iris Gallery and Custom Framing, the previously mentioned Black Ice Outdoor Productions and others made significant contributions, he said.

Those unable to take in the exhibition in Madison will have two more opportunities: the show travels to Cable in February and returns again to Spooner in March. A project website also showcases the boys’ work. And below, one more example of a photograph you’ll find in the exhibition—this one from 16-year-old Chuck.

Just a Teenager 

I’m just a teenager.
A teenager tryin’ to make it.
A teenager tryin’ to get there.
A teenager tryin’ to move on.
A teenager tryin’ to break free.
I’m just a teenager
that doesn’t want to fall through the cracks.

–Chuck, age 16

For Love and Money

December 13, 2010

Readers may remember my previous post on Hudson photographer Carl Corey’s “Wisconsin Tavern League” series. This month Corey sent an update about his latest artistic effort, a portfolio in progress he’s calling “For Love and Money.”

Mary P. McCarrier with Grandfather's picture - Globe House Furnishings, Marinette - est. 1888. Photo: Carl Corey. All rights reserved by the artist.

Here’s how Corey describes the project:

“Becoming intrigued with the familial lineage involved in many of the Tavern League subjects I decided to start to investigate the well established family business in Wisconsin. My criteria were simple: The enterprise must be located in Wisconsin and currently owned and operated by the family for a minimum of fifty years. There is much that can be said pertaining to the history of such an enterprise. There is also the contemporary entrepreneurial commitment to the continued success of the business, most especially with the current economic climate and ever expanding competitive global marketplace.”

Corey’s got impressive technical skill and an artful eye, yes, but he also knows how to tell a story. Good storytellers have to decide what to divulge and what to leave to the imagination, a flair Corey demonstrates again in “For Love and Money.” The photos are revealing but respectful–and in the case of the three Globe House Furnishings photos (one of which is shown above), sad but unsentimental. After 122 years in business, Globe House owners Mary McCarrier and her family decided to close their furniture store. Corey caught them on film just days after the store shut its doors. Other photos in the series document other establishments–a tavern, a music store, a logging outfit and more–all still in business.

These new photos feature people I’d want to meet, histories I want to hear, places I’d like to go.

–Tammy Kempfert

Video Post – Musings on posting and life as an artist

September 5, 2010


Here is a download link for the video, for those on dial-up who wish to download it to view.

To download the video, right click/CMD-click the link and choose “save link as”

My caution is that it is a large file, being video. it is 95MB.



My apologies for the roughness of the editing. Please let me know what you think of the video in the comments down below.

Links mentioned in the video:

Portrait a Day Project

Rainy Day Worzella

Spyros Heniadis