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During then-12-year-old Jamila LeBouton-Chediack's first foray on Lake Superior with a couple of older Sea Scouts to learn sailing, the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse.
"It was the first time I experienced rain on the water," the Washburn student said. "Little novice me was terrified."
Five years later the seasoned Lake Superior sailor looked back on the memory and laughed. The rain was just a drizzle, she said, and the wind barely twitched the sails.
And the experience utterly failed to put a dent in her desire to continue sailing the lake with the Bayfield chapter of the Sea Scouts, a nationwide organization devoted to promoting leadership, citizenship and seamanship.
LeBouton-Chediack attended her first Sea Scouts meeting at the behest of friend Ally Roberson, who raved about the group and wanted her buddy by her side when she accepted an award at the gathering.
The 12-year-old liked what she saw of the friendly, open and kind Sea Scouts, and had an answer ready when an adult asked if she'd like to join.
"I said, 'Yes, but I don't think I'm old enough,' LeBouton-Chediack recalled. "And she said, 'Welcome to the program.'"
Over the following years LeBouton-Chediack not only learned seamanship basics such as rope work, knot-tying, line maintenance and navigation on the Bayfieldbased schooner Abbey Road, she mastered the fine art of leadership.
And that's an important part of being a Sea Scout as the kids are in charge of everything right down to the planning.
"The adults are only there to make sure nobody gets seriously injured," LeBouton-Chediack said.
The Bayfield Sea Scouts typically cruise around the Apostle Islands once a week during the summer, plus embark on a 10-day cruise to a destination on Lake Superior such as Isle Royale or the Tall Ship Festival in Duluth.
LeBouton-Chediack has chaired some of these trips or run the galley and said the young sailors do everything from deciding the destination to creating the menu, shopping and cooking for up to nine crew members plus two adult chaperones.
"The adults just show up and get fed," LeBouton-Chediack laughed. "And we love having them there. The adults are amazing."
One trip to Isle Royale was an especially memorable experience for LeBouton-Chediack.
Boys and girls must berth separately, which can pose a problem as female sailors are always vastly outnumbered. LeBouton-Chediack and two other girls found themselves in a forward cabin with only two bunks — and one floor. They took turns sleeping on the floor and had a grand time.
"It was quality hang-out time," she said.
Having graduated early from Washburn in January, LeBouton-Chediack, the 17-year-old daughter of Joseph LeBouton and Ariadna Chediack, set her sights on sailing Pacificsized waters on a tall ship, the Lady Washington, out of Washington.
Lake Superior Tall Ships Executive Director Gordon Ringberg, who said he watched LeBouton-Chediack blossom from a shy, quiet 12-yearold into an "old salt" on Abbey Road, told her and Sea Scout Bridget McCutchen there could be berths on the boat as he was set to serve as captain for a while.
McCutchen jumped at the chance, but LeBouton-Chediack wasn't certain the timing was right.
However, with graduation behind her, she started to search for sailing adventures, and finally accepted a job on Lady Washington which takes school groups on educational tours on the West Coast.
LeBouton-Chediack reported for duty April 6 and has been living on the tall ship, alongside fellow crewmates and Capt. Ringberg. The crew has been in lockdown since their arrival, but they've kept busy working on Lady Washington and sailing once a week to train.
Due to the pandemic, the ship isn't sailing with any passengers, but it's been exciting nonetheless, Ringberg said.
And after LeBoutonChediack's tour of duty ends? Who knows? She doesn't.
"I have no clue what I want to do," she said. "College is in my future. I just don't know when or where."
Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua will take a long intermission this year after the Board of Directors canceled the 2020 season amid concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. But don't tune out just yet — part of the show will go on, albeit in different formats.
"We are deeply saddened to have to cancel the Big Top summer season, but due to the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty of what to expect this summer, we felt it was the ethical and right thing to do," Big Top Board President Kim Ogle said in a news release.
Executive Director Terry Matier expressed no doubt that the Big Top will survive the loss of the 2020 summer season, as the nonprofit performing arts organization is in a good financial position thanks to community support and donations.
"We will be here for summer 2021 for sure," she said.
But in the meantime, the financial repercussions from closing the canvas flaps will ripple through the organization and surrounding communities.
Big Top won't be hiring its summer crew or employ Blue Canvas Orchestra performers in the traditional way, Matier said, although the organization's small core staff will stay on duty with the help of CARES Act funding.
And without the Big Top to draw tourists from outside the Chequamegon Bay area, restaurants, hotels and retailers will feel an economic pinch as many music lovers typically made a weekend of attending big-name music events.
"It will hurt pretty big," Washburn Area Chamber of
Commerce Director Melissa Martinez said about the canceled season. "I'm concerned about how this is going to affect communities that rely on this for the economy of the area."
Besides hurting restaurants and hotels, Martinez said the "shocking" news of the season's cancellation could prove to be a blow to community morale, especially coming on top of numerous area festivals and events being postponed or canceled. She also pointed out that many graduating seniors rely on summer seasonal work to save money for college and will have little to do before fall classes begin.
Paige Rautio, marketing director for Bayfield Chamber & Visitor Bureau, said she respected the decision and applauded Big Top's concerns for the health of visitors and local residents. Nevertheless, the decision will have ramifications.
"A Bayfield summer without Big Top is going to be difficult for visitors and locals alike," Rautio said in a statement.
On the bright side, the Bayfield area will see the $10.4 million expansion of Wild Rice Retreat and publicity surrounding Travel Wisconsin's Fish Fry Faceoff, she said.
"We will make the best of our 2020 season and work on our other assets to promote Bayfield for future travel," Rautio said.
Matier estimated that about 85% of Big Top Chautauqua's audience, which numbers about 33,000 annually, comes from outside the area, although that number could include people who live in second homes in the Bayfield Peninsula. Big Top's staff understands the closure will financially impact musicians and a number of people in the restaurant, hotel and retail arenas, she said.
"Our musicians and crew rely on income from our summer shows, and the greater Ashland/Bayfield area relies on the economic impact of our events," Matier said in a statement. "We are painfully aware of the ripples that will proceed from not being able to produce our season."
Despite the season's cancellation, all will not be silent at the Big Top as its house band, the Blue Canvas Orchestra, will be creating new material for the 2021 season and preparing to stream performances from the stage once it's safe to do so.
The Tiny Tent Show also will grow and be available on Facebook and YouTube live at 7 p.m. Fridays until audiences can return to the grounds. And while waiting to hear the orchestra's new material, audiences can listen to archived episodes of Tent Show Radio to get their fix of Big Top music.
People who already hold tickets for the summer season will receive emails letting them know their options, Matier said. They can make a tax-deductible contribution to the nonprofit organization, apply the money toward future Big Top shows or receive a refund.
For more information or to donate, visit bigtop.org or email email@example.com.
Wausau school board member and law professor Tricia Zunker, a Democrat, will square off with State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Minoqua, on May 12 in the race to fill the vacant U.S. Congressional 7th District seat.
The seat was held by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau, who resigned Sept. 23. Duffy said he stepped down to spend more time with his family, including a ninth child who was going to be facing health issues.
The district includes parts or all of 20 counties in northwest Wisconsin. There are 420,000 registered voters in the district. The Wisconsin Elections Commission announced Thursday that 93,000 absentee ballots have been requested, or about 22% of the electorate.
Each candidate responded to a questionnaire sent to them in mid-April. Here are their responses.
Why are you the best candidate to represent the 7th Congressional District? Tell me about your qualifications and background that shows you are the best candidate.
Tiffany: I'm a father and a small businessman who is concerned for my community, and I deliver on my promises. I'm also the only candidate in this race with a tested, proven record of standing up for northern Wisconsin. As a citizen legislator, I've helped pull Wisconsin out of difficult times before and I'll do it again. Wisconsinites can count on me because my words come with a record of never compromising on our shared values and always putting Wisconsin first.
Zunker: I'm the proud daughter of a 30-year union member (USW Local 2-224), the granddaughter of a dairy farmer, and a first-generation college graduate who also went on to earn a law degree. I'm where I'm at today because of opportunities I was given, and I want to ensure other people have those opportunities as well. I'm a supreme court justice for my tribe, Ho-Chunk Nation, Wausau school board
president, a professor, an attorney, a solo parent, and I'm looking forward to serving you in Congress.
What could have been done differently on a national level to address the spread of COVID-19?
Tiffany: It's important to understand what led us here so we can stop similar outbreaks in the future. This COVID-19 pandemic is the deadly and avoidable result of China's recklessness. The U.S. must hold the communist Chinese government accountable and no longer be complacent towards the country's misdeeds that led to this.
Zunker: Action should have been taken much sooner at the federal level. If testing had been expanded sooner, lives could have been saved, much of the spread could have been halted, and we would not be seeing as extensive an economic impact as we're currently seeing. It is critical that people in powerful decision-making positions listen to the experts, facts and data and that didn't happen here.
Should northern Wisconsin counties, which haven't been impacted as hard by COVID-19, be allowed to open up early and resume business operations? Should the stay-at-home order be lifted in some areas of the state?
Tiffany: We can and must do both: control the spread of the virus and begin opening our economy back up. We must also work to provide Wisconsin families, workers and businesses with the bridge necessary to safely get us through these tough times and back to prosperity. That is why I voted for the recent emergency COVID-19 legislation that will help protect Wisconsinites during this public health emergency. But we must also implement a more precise, regional plan to reopen our economy, rather than a shotgun, lock-down approach. Such a plan has been recently outlined by Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House virus task force coordinator.
Zunker: I believe we need to listen to scientists and medical experts about how and where to start lifting restrictions. I know so many people throughout northern Wisconsin are eager to get back to work, and we need to find ways for them to do so that don't jeopardize the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations, or threaten the capacity of our rural hospitals. We must ensure that our health care workers and those on the front lines throughout northern Wisconsin remain as protected as possible and that is best accomplished through safe social distancing throughout the state because the contagion of coronavirus does not stop at county lines.
What should Congress be doing to assist struggling businesses and farmers dealing with lost revenue because of COVID-19? What can be done to help the towns and businesses that depend on summer tourism?
Tiffany: I believe the federal government should give a hand up to our farmers, in the same way it's helping workers and small business owners. The USDA's recent Coronavirus Food Assistance Program is a good first step. The program will provide $19 billion in direct support to farmers, producers, and distributors whose supply chains have been critically impacted by COVID-19. We should also take a regional approach to reopening the economy so our towns and businesses that depend on summer tourism can be allowed to open back up safely and responsibly.
Zunker: Congress needs to approve additional funds to help small businesses struggling during this pandemic get back on their feet. We also need a representative who will prioritize constituent services and making sure small business owners and local governments have a partner who will help connect them to available services. We also need to make infrastructure investments that will allow these businesses to grow, such as improving broadband access. Congress must provide sustainable relief, not simply a band-aid for our families, vulnerable populations, farmers, and small businesses through this time.
The Northwoods historically has been somewhat neglected by Congress when it comes to money for infrastructure and protection. Some roads still aren't repaired after two summers of historic floods and recent news that EPA staff and enforcement have been cut dramatically on the Great Lakes. What specifically will you do to bring more resources to the Northland?
Tiffany: The Northwoods will not be neglected if you elect me as your congressman. In the state Legislature, I fought for more funding for northern Wisconsin roads, helped expand rural broadband, and authored legislation to expand access to healthcare in our rural areas. In the wake of recent historic flooding, I spent a lot of time in Superior working to address the loophole that causes FEMA reimbursements to be counted against a municipality's transportation aid. In Congress, I will fight to ensure our Northwoods communities get the federal resources they need while also having the flexibility to allocate these dollars accordingly.
Zunker: I will make advocating for additional funding for infrastructure improvements, including road repairs and increasing broadband access, a top priority. I will also advocate for greater environmental protections enforcement on the Great Lakes because we need to keep our beautiful lakes and rivers clean. I will do this by partnering with others in the delegation to advocate to federal agencies about why additional funding is needed, and put partisan politics aside to get real solutions for Wisconsinites.
What are top issues for you if you are elected? Tiffany: My first priority will be to provide Wisconsin families, workers and businesses with the bridge necessary to safely get us through these tough times and back to prosperity. I'll work to lower the price of health care and increase access. I'll champion delisting the gray wolf, and fight for more free and fair trade deals for Wisconsin farmers. And to stop future generations from being saddled with this enormous federal debt, I'll roll up my sleeves to lower out-of-control spending.
Zunker: I think this pandemic has highlighted that now more than ever, we need someone in office who will advocate for affordable health care and economic security for all Wisconsinites. I will work to expand access to affordable health care, make sure pre-existing conditions stay protected, and take on Big Pharma to lower the cost of prescription drugs. I'll also advocate for additional help for small businesses and funding to expand rural broadband access, so that small businesses throughout northern Wisconsin can grow.
Why should people vote for you?
Tiffany: I have the values and leadership, learned on the farm in Elmwood, needed to represent the 7th District. When I got into politics, I did so as a father and a small businessman concerned for my community, and I delivered on my commitments. Wisconsinites can count on me not just because of my words but because my words come with action. I won't apologize for or compromise our Wisconsin values — I'm pro-gun, pro-life, pro-America, and will always put Wisconsin first.
Zunker: I have the moral fiber, work ethic and experience to get the job done in Congress and I'm going to take office and advocate for every person in this district, whether they voted for me or not. I'm going to put partisan politics aside and work to make sure people have access to affordable health care, and that small businesses and family farmers have the help they need. On the school board I've worked with people who have differing viewpoints than me to get things done, and that's what I'll do in office. I'll also prioritize constituent services, making sure my office is there to help and listen to people throughout this district.