Be WOWed by Wisconsin by Edith Wagner

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With the enthusiastic assist of a character named “Flat Jack,” the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) can help arrange group tours of Wausau-area attractions.

According to Wausau CVB Executive Director Darien Schaefer, “Flat Jack” is loosely based on a popular children’s book, in which a boy named Stanley gets flattened by a falling bulletin board. Then, “Flat Stanley” is mailed around the world to be photographed in front of landmarks and mailed home.

“Like Flat Stanley,” Schaefer explains, “Flat Jack is a world traveler who came home to be spokesperson and tour guide extraordinaire for Wausau/Central Wisconsin tourism.”

I am a great fan of visiting places where I can learn how things are designed or made or sold or all of those things. I like to learn how things are done. I am always reminded of the importance of introducing kids to cows so they don’t grow up thinking milk comes only from cartons.

Reunion programs can be enlivened by tours of area industries or enterprises. If you don’t live in the area and want to learn what’s unique in addition to the obvious, well-advertised tourist attractions, there is an easy solution. Contact the CVB for help identifying and arranging special area tours.

At their 2002 reunion, the 9th Armour Division enjoyed a tour of the central Wisconsin area. Forty passengers boarded a bus at their hotel for a first stop at Mosinee Papers for a tour. Then, a tour of Wausau’s Andrew Warren Historic District (www.marathoncountyhistory.com) led to a visit to the renowned Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum (www.lywam.org) before lunch. After the break, the tour continued to Rib Mountain State Park and a stop at Grandfather Falls in Merrill.

In the same area, this is a sample of some intriguing tours available in Central Wisconsin.

The Van Der Geest Dairy Farm (www.vandergeestdairy.com) was designed specifically with tours in mind, giving you a bird’s-eye view from a catwalk above the operation without disturbing the business at hand. This, for a native of Wisconsin, is an outstanding tour. The Van Der Geest barns are home to over 3,000 cows, each milked three times a day — an almost continuous milking schedule — with the help of only five workers per shift and modern, computerized technology.

At Hsu’s Ginseng Gardens (www.hsuginseng.com), the largest ginseng enterprise in the US, you can learn about herbal remedies made from the ginseng root. Wisconsin ginseng is prized for its high quality and potency, and Marathon County now produces 95% of the US cultivated crop, 87% of which is exported to Asia.

Only three plants in the world give bottles diverted from landfills new life as fine stemware. Green Glass LLC (www.greenglassUSA.com) transforms bottles into stunning goblets and tumblers.

Other equally unusual and surprisingly interesting tours include Kolbe and Kolbe Millworks (www.kolbe-kolbe.com) to see the window-making process, and nearby Anderson Brothers and Johnson Granite Quarry (800-826-1581), which harvests stone for intriguing uses.

Finally, visit the Reitbrock Geological Marker, the exact center of the northern half of the western hemisphere, is one of only four places like this in the world; one is in China and the other two under water. A visit to this geographical landmark gives you something to talk about!

Contact Christine Martens, Group Tour Sales Manager for the Wausau/Central Wisconsin CVB, 10204 Park Plaza, Suite B, Mosinee WI 54455; (toll free) 888-948-4748, x 305; cmartens@wausaucvb.com; www.wausaucvb.com. Martens notes that one phone call will lead to itineraries to suit any group’s interests, including lodging, restaurant, and entertainment suggestions to make all Central Wisconsin reunions fun, affordable and fulfilling.

Here are some suggestions from the many fine venues in the Central Wisconsin area.
To stay
Stoney Creek Inn
1100 Imperial Ave, Mosinee
715-355-6858

For special meals
The Wausau Club (available for group parties planned in advance)
309-McClellan St, Wausau
715-845-2131

Hereford and Hops (where you can select and grill your own steak)
2201 Sherman St, Wausau
715-849-3700

2510 (serve lovely lunches)
2510 Stewart Ave, Wausau
715-675-9961

About the author, Edith Wagner is editor of Reunions magazine.

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