Here are some unique mid-summer festivals, celebrations and special events you won’t want to miss
Wisconsinites really know how to enjoy the summertime. In a climate where warm weather is appreciated – and in some cases, revered – summer is a season of festivals and celebrations.
These unique annual events reflect local traditions and community spirit. There’s really no better way to get a sense of a place than attending an annual summer festival or event. You’ll be warmly welcomed – and you might just make some of these events your own annual tradition.
Wisconsin is the site of a number of summer races. One of the best is the Annual Just Tri-It Triathlon, run on the first Saturday in July in Vilas County. The event includes a 300-yard swim, a 10-kilometer bicycle race and a 5-kilometer trail run. The Northwoods will be in full bloom, so it should be a wonderful time for a race through the forest.
Another great way to get to know a community is by attending a county fair. One of Wisconsin’s most classic fairs is the annual Barron County Fair, held in mid July in Rice Lake. The fair features tractor pulls, harness races, stock car races, a demolition derby and a “Fairest of the Fair” contest. You’ll see crafts and creations from people from around the area, as well as livestock and other locally-raised products.
On the third Saturday in July, head to Black River Country for the annual Karner Blue Butterfly Festival, an event celebrating the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly, which is indigenous to the Black River Country area. In addition to the traditional summer festival activities — including a 5K-10K-Half Marathon race, the crowning of the “Butterfly Princess” and a craft fair on Main Street – attendees will have a chance to learn more about the Karner Blue Butterfly and tour the endangered insect’s habitat.
For those interested in art, each summer, Rhinelander hosts its Annual School of the Arts in late July. For the past 47 years, the weeklong School of the Arts program has given adults a chance to learn from artists through a series of classes and hands-on opportunities. Anyone who is interested in expanding their horizons should be sure to look into this interesting event.
Find more summer events happening in Wisconsin.
All events subject to change – be sure to call ahead.
Three outstanding summer birdwatching hotspots in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is blessed with a long list of natural areas, protected wetlands and other natural areas. It’s a smorgasbord of birding goodness. But with so many options, it can be hard to pick the best. To help you get your birdwatching adventures kick-started, here are three of Wisconsin’s most outstanding birdwatching opportunities.
As you pull your car off of Middleton’s bustling Century Avenue and into the parking lot of the Pheasant Branch Conservancy, you wonder if there really could be a pristine nature area so close to such a thriving community. A few steps down the nature trail and you soon find yourself in another world.
The conservancy protects the springs and seepages that feed Pheasant Branch Creek, an important source of clean, clear water for the Yahara River chain of lakes, which includes Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. The 550-acre complex of woodlands, wetlands, ponds and meadows is accessible by a several miles of trails.
Along the trails, you’ll find a number of great places for birdwatching, including some excellent observation platforms. Wetland species include great blue heron and sandhill crane. Dozens of varieties of songbirds thrive in the woods and meadows. Hawks can be seen perched in trees above the fields or soaring over the marshes. Several varieties of warbler frequent the woodlands during the summer months.
Getting to the conservancy is easy. There are parking lots and trailheads on the west side of the conservancy off Pheasant Branch Road and Century Avenue. Other access points include a trailhead at Orchid Heights Park and a parking lot off of Sedgemeadow Road. A community trail system also connects walkers and bicyclists to the trails at the conservancy.
For more information about the Pheasant Branch Conservancy and Middleton’s award-winning community trail system, visit www.visitmiddleton.com.
Our next birding hotspot is northern Wisconsin’s Vilas County. Much of Vilas County is made up of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. Within the forest are a number of old-growth forest remnants that offer some opportunities to see warblers. Many of the rarest and most fragile sections of the forest are preserved as State Natural Areas.
Protected and maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, these State Natural Areas offer incredible woodland birdwatching. A great example is the Trout Lake Conifer Forest, one of the best warbler spots in northern Wisconsin.
The cedar, spruce, tamarack and balsam firs of this wet forest attract many species of warblers, including Nashville, black and white, Blackburnian, black-throated green, yellow-rumped and northern parula. The dimly lit forest groves, the carpet of mosses, the numerous orchids and other rare plants all give you the sense that you’re in another world.
To get there from the Minocqua-Arbor Vitae-Woodruff area, go north on U.S. Hwy. 51 for six miles, then northeast on County M for two miles. The area is located just a quarter mile past the intersection with County N. The natural area lies northwest of the highway.
For more information about Vilas County and its many State Natural Areas, visit www.vilas.org.
Our last birding hotspot is in west-central Wisconsin. Black River Country is best known for its forests. The more than 200,000 acres of protected forest lands abound with trails and wildlife. Its location right off I-94 makes it a favorite outdoor escape for Minnesotans and Wisconsinites alike.
But this picturesque region of rugged pine forests also offers outstanding birding. One of the best locations in Black River Country is an area known as Dike 17. Located on the easternmost border of the Black River State Forest along Settlement Road, this refuge area features an observation tower that overlooks a large flowage and several other wetlands.
During the summer, the lush green wetland is alive with activity. Sandhill crane, numerous shorebirds and waterfowl use the area. Kingfisher, heron, egret and several raptor species are also common sights, as are a variety of songbirds that utilize the excellent upland habitat that surrounds the wetlands.
But aside from the great birding, the area offers wonderful views of the beautiful Black River Country landscape. One visit and Dike 17 will probably be close to #1 on your list of favorite Wisconsin birding locations.
Learn more about Black River Country by visiting www.blackrivercountry.net.
Take a trip to these Wisconsin communities for incredible geocaching this summer
Geocaching is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in the world. And no wonder — there are few recreational activities that can be enjoyed by so many people. Young and old, ultra-athletic or just enthusiastic — everyone can enjoy this treasure-hunting game.
Geocaching is a treasure-hunting game played with a hand-held GPS unit. Participants search for hidden “caches” using only GPS coordinates and their ingenuity.
West Bend, in southeast Wisconsin, is one of the best places in the world for geocaching. More than 500 caches are hidden within a seven-mile radius of downtown West Bend. Historic architecture, beautiful nature areas and unique outdoor art abound in the community, making it one of the most interesting places anywhere for geocaching. The West Bend area is so widely renowned for its quality geocaching that it has become known as the “Geocaching Capital of the Midwest™,” a title that the community has thoroughly embraced.
In an effort to celebrate the sport of geocaching, West Bend holds an annual event on the second weekend in August entitled, the “West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h™,” a name which the community has also trademarked. Hundreds of geocachers from around the world will descend on West Bend for a weekend of contests, special events and other geocaching-related activities. There’s even a class for those who are geocaching for the first time.
Find out more about geocaching in West Bend — visit www.westbendgeocaching.com.
For geocachers seeking some wilderness treasure hunting, the communities of Rhinelander and Boulder Junction are great places to go. As part of the Great Northwoods Treasure Hunt, geocachers can find hundreds of caches hidden in some of northern Wisconsin’s most scenic and interesting locations. Both Rhinelander and Boulder Junction offer a full range of hidden treasures, from easy-to-find to downright challenging.
Geocachers in Boulder Junction should keep their eyes peeled for the area’s white deer, a rare albino variation of the white-tailed deer that is found in unusually large numbers in this quiet resort community. And geocachers in Rhinelander should keep their eyes peeled for the Hodag, a creature of local legend – a number of area caches are Hodag-themed.
Learn more about geocaching in Rhinelander and Boulder Junction by visiting www.northwoodsgeocaching.com.
Rusk County is a great place to go for a wilderness geocaching adventure. Caches are hidden throughout Rusk County, luring treasure hunters to beautiful forest glades, sculpted riverbanks, winding forest trails and historic points of interest. Geocachers in Rusk County quickly discover why it’s such a great place to visit – lots of elbow room and incredible natural beauty.
Geocachers interested in fall color won’t want to miss the Rusk County Fall Geocache Contest, held in late September. Treasure hunters will search for 25 caches hidden throughout the county during a time when the trees are showing their best autumn shades.
While you’re in Rusk County, be sure to take advantage of the four great paddling rivers, dozens of fishing lakes and several outstanding trail systems, Rusk County is a popular destination for canoeists, kayakers, anglers, hikers and mountain bikers
For more information about Rusk County, visit www.ruskcountywi.com.
Find more summer events happening in Wisconsin.
All events subject to change – be sure to call ahead.