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September 25: News from around the Driftless Area
News From Around the Arrea

‘News from Around the Driftless Area’ is a compilation showcasing the excellent work and interesting tidbits from the community journalists sprinkled throughout our area.

VIROQUA – Beginning Monday, Sept. 21, county buildings will begin to be open and accessible to the public during regular office hours. Vernon County officials are still strongly encouraging people to conduct business with county departments via phone and email when possible. If you need to meet with a county department, county officials are still recommending you call ahead and make an appointment with that department. If you chose to walk in for service during office hours, please plan for additional time for added health and safety precautions. All individuals will be required to wear face coverings while in the county buildings, and county staff will be screening all individuals for COVID-19 symptoms. Officials will be actively monitoring the spread over the coming weeks, and will re-evaluate the building access if needed… The tasting room in the new St. Mary’s Distillery, on St. Mary’s Ridge seven miles east of Cashton, is offering cocktails made with its own rum and brandy, along with scenic views of nearby valleys, trees and fields. Kory and Melissa Revels of rural Sparta opened the craft distillery’s tasting room on September 5. The tasting room is open to the public one day a week — from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays — year-round. Additional hours or events are available by appointment… Many residents are missing attending the Vernon County Fair this year, cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the history of the Vernon County Fair by visiting the Vernon County Museum’s archives, or follow their Facebook page. Harness racing was first held at the second Vernon County fairgrounds, located on West Decker and extending to West Broadway in Viroqua. These grounds were used from 1858 to 1890. For three years prior to 1891, racing was cancelled, but when the Fair Association realized it was in debt, the popular harness racing was reinstated. The purchase of the standard bred trotter ‘Vernon’ by Frank M. Minshall in 1892 increased the popularity of the races. Vernon raced for 11 years. Even with fewer participants today, harness racing continues to be one of the most popular events at the Vernon County Fair.

LA FARGE – A LaFarge Schools focus group met recently to receive updates on a planned $5.5 million referendum. Two representatives from HSR Associates, an architect firm out of LaCrosse, were on hand to answer questions. Local residents and school personnel were in attendance for the 30-minute presentation. A virtual option to participate was also offered. Five areas of the school will be renovated under the plan. They include replacing the present heating system from steam to hot water, and adding air conditioning to the building; improving storm water drainage; convert the old boiler room into an additional classroom; moving the music room up one floor level; and take care of Americans with Disabilities problems by correcting code violations… A controversy about safety of Parr Road in the Vernon County Town of Whitestown for first responder vehicles brought out seven citizens at the most recent town board meeting. The issue is the area of the road, which squeezes through a narrow spot as it passes Gary and Rhonda Parr’s farm buildings. Jay Vosseteig owns a property on the end of the dead end road, which formerly ended at the Parr’s farm. The issue is that the buildings are contended to be in the road right of way. Vosseteig, whose wife is a sister to Gary Parr, has requested that the Parrs close off the garage door next to the roadway and move the fuel barrels that sit next to the road. The town has created a 15-mile-per-hour speed zone in front of the buildings. Gary Parr has rejected these proposals. Town board chairman, Attorney George Wilbur, discovered case law in a similar situation where the court ruled that if the town was not willing to purchase property for their right of way, then the roadway would remain the same width as it was in the historical past… Online consignment auctions are now a big thing. Three LaFarge men have aligned themselves with Blair Online Auction Services out of Blair, Wisconsin. They have set up a location in LaFarge. Those men are Steve Olson, Koby Walker, and Gary Knutson. To find information about listing items on the consignment auction site, go to

ONTARIO – Wilton’s sewer rates will rise by 20 percent starting December 22, and the State Public Service Commission will likely require the village to raise its water rates by about 86 percent in the coming months. At a recent Wilton Village Board meeting, clerk/treasurer Lori Brueggen noted that, at one point, the PSC suggested a 104 percent increase for water rates, but the village negotiated for a lower rate… Ontario inched one step closer to relocating its downtown out of the floodplain when it agreed to purchase 36 acres at the most recent village board meeting. Confident that they will receive grant money needed to develop the property, the board members agreed to pay Merv Taylor $250,000 for the property, which is located south of Highway 33, and west of Highway 131. A block grant will provide the funds for the first payment, and the village will make the subsequent three… The school year had a promising start in the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District, Superintendent Travis Anderson reported recently to the board of education. He said, “Both staff and students are doing a wonderful job” and “exhibiting a positive vibe…” The Brookwood FFA Chapter hosted a blood drive with the American Red Cross recently. They had a goal of 30 units, and were able to collect 31. Because the FFA reached their goal, the Red Cross will donate to the Brookwood FFA Scholarship Fund.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – A 2020 Crawford County Alzheimer’s fundraising event, a 5K walk and 1K lap swim, will be held Saturday, Oct. 3, at Hoffman Hall in Prairie du Chien, from 7 to 10 a.m. In an effort to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s and dementia programs within Crawford County—yet observe coronavirus safety precautions—this event is being safely provided in lieu of the annual Alzheimer’s Walk that started in the county last year. For more information, or with questions, call the local dementia outreach specialist, Heather Moore, at 608-723-4288… With these uncertain times due to the current pandemic, Prairie du Chien Halls of Terror regretfully announces that they will not be open for the 2020 haunt season. Stay tuned for some potential family friendly outdoor activities on Halloween-details are still being worked out… Prairie du Chien High School has announced that the homecoming activities that were scheduled are postponed… The City of Marquette continued steps at its latest meeting to deal with dog issues in the community—whether threatening behavior toward humans or other pets, or running at large without a leash. The council is also considering adoption of an annual pet license.

RICHLAND CENTER – You can do something great for the Passages Shelter in Richland Center by entering their recently announced virtual music/singing contest. It’s easy – just record a video of yourself singing or playing music. Then submit your video to passagesut@gmail, and Passages will send you an e-mail reply with your assigned number. Once you have entered the contest, ask other people to ‘like’ your video with a monetary contribution to Passages that they can pay through PayPal. To vote, supporters should go to… In keeping with their annual tradition, the Turkey Busters released walleyes into Lake Lee recently. This year, they released 520 four-month-old fish, using funds from the North American Walleye Association.

BOSCOBEL – Four years ago, Bill and Sue Messer of Delavan were married at Wyalusing State Park. To commemorate the occasion and complete a journey that started 15 years ago with four friends, the group decided to float from Boscobel to Wyalusing on a homemade raft – completing the last leg of the Lower Wisconsin from the Prairie du Sac dam to the Mississippi. The craft was powered by a 24-volt trolling motor with 80 pounds of thrust, and despite rainy conditions, the group was well provisioned with grass fed steaks, Russian crab legs, venison stew and plenty of beverages for a three-day float.