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Open class, barn wing to be demolished at fairground

After being declared unsafe last spring and spending nearly a year fenced off at the county fairgrounds, the historic open class building and the collapsed wing of the livestock building will be demolished by contractor American Relics of Wausau this month.

The county has no current plans to replace either building.

The county received an offer from American Relics, offering to pay the county $100 to take down the open class building, after which the company will sell the vintage lumber salvaged to any interested members of the public. As there isn't expected to be much worth salvaging from the collapsed wing of the livestock barn, the county will pay American Relics $6,500 to demolish the wing.

The county will provide dumpsters for shingles, glass, unwanted wood, and anything else that can't be sold.

Since the open class building currently houses the electrical service for the fairgrounds, it

will need to be disconnected and relocated.

The possibility of purchasing a small storage shed for the purpose of housing the electric service was discussed by the executive committee on Jan. 14, and a resolution to approve the costs will be presented to the county board of supervisors at their next meeting on Feb. 16. Costs are expected to total $28,985.

The main goal of this project is to ensure working electricity for the fairgrounds, while improving safety by removing the potentially dangerous structures so public events can be held on site in the future, according to county administrator Nick Trimner.

While the fairgrounds will be short one building and the space formerly afforded to livestock by the barn wing, Trimner said the other pole sheds on site can be utilized and should another pole shed be required, that can be considered in the future.

"We will now have a place where the fair can be held," he said. "This may be a better, cheaper alternative because maybe we can fix up the remaining barn for $100,000 instead of trying to build a new one for $600,000."

From a historical perspective, this option will also allow for the majority of the remaining livestock barn to be restored rather than completely demolished and replaced with a modern structure, which Trimner said he believes people would like to see.

This option, having the buildings demolished and allowing the wood to be sold, will present a considerable cost savings to the county compared to earlier demolition estimates, with Trimner estimating a conservative savings of $40,000.

Discussions held by county officials earlier this year indicated the costs of restoring or replacing the historic buildings could range from $500,000 to $1.8 million.

After starting the deconstruction process, American Relics will have 60 days to complete the project.

Once the demolition has been completed, the county's insurance provider will need to examine the remaining two wings and rotunda of the barn to ensure it is safe for the public to utilize.


Northwoods Players take to the internet

Nearly a year after the word "COVID-19" became commonplace in the Northwoods, there are few things the pandemic hasn't affected and community theater is no exception.

The area's local thespian troupe, Northwoods Players, were in the midst of rehearsals for a musical production of Disney's "Freaky Friday" when the first Safer At Home order was issued and normal life came shuddering to an uneasy stop in March of 2020.

For months, the troupe of actors disbanded, isolated in their own homes, connecting only through online meetings.

As the summer and fall wound to a close with no end to the pandemic in sight, the group took inspiration from other performance groups finding an outlet for their creative imaginings on the virtual stage of the internet.

Armed with a script for a traditional on-stage performance that lent itself nicely to a virtual format, 16 Northwoods Players began meeting two or three nights a week via Zoom to rehearse their roles in their production of "Virtual Complaint Department and Lemonade."

An apt choice at a time when it seems there is much to complain about, the comedy gives viewers a much-needed chuckle as the characters find a way to grouse about just about anything.

The cast of pun-tastically named characters includes Gary Griesel as Confuseus Nomind, Karl Pippenger as Russell Sprouts, Lyla Beringer as Miss O'Rio, Shelly Johnson as Romona R. Oar, Nancy Campbell-Kelz as Anita Vacation, Anne Baxter as Ida Cantheer, Sam Morrone as Brie Precision, Tia Kropf-Beringer as Jane G. Eye, Pavithra Kumaravel as Ashley Hughman, Matt Johnson as Craig Clutz, Karl Kelz as Dash Riprock, Luanne Angelo as Justina Minit Mayde, Susan Jones as Beatrice Flat, Katie Willers as Karen McGowan, Brenda Willers as Hazel Nutt, and Alex Skawinski acting as technical director.

"This was an ideal fit for us — no costumes, only a few props, and a small cast," said Karl Pippenger, the play's director and a longtime member of the acting group. "Virtual productions are becoming very popular right now, and it was a lot of fun to get together online. We wanted to have something that could unify and connect us at this time — and this did just that."

Even so, the production wasn't without its fair share of technological troubles, ranging from a glitchy audio, dim lighting, and lagging connections.

However, after two months of rehearsal to memorize the script and troubleshoot the challenges, the Northwoods Players filmed their production since the start of the pandemic and released it on Facebook and YouTube, where it can be found at https://youtu. be/2Y3963FMQuc. While the production is free for anyone to watch at any time, the Northwoods Players are accepting donations in lieu of standard tickets. A significant portion of funds raised go towards the group's annual scholarships for students who participate in Northwoods Players, with $7,000 worth of scholarships given out in 2020. Since in-person performances are not currently an option for raising scholarship funds, donations are the best option, according to Pippenger.

With the success of one virtual production completed, the Northwoods Players are currently assessing student and community interest in a second virtual production.

Anyone interested in participating should reach out to Pippenger at karlp@pctcnet.net.

Depending on the level of interest, another virtual production may be released later this spring.

In the meanwhile, Pippenger is using the time to craft a series of short, humorous skits in the hope that come summer, the acting troupe can safely come together in small groups to put on mini productions at the newly constructed outdoor pavilion in Elk Lake Park.

Interested folks can stay informed on the group's virtual efforts by visiting them on Facebook or their website http://www.northwoodsplayers.com/.

As Pippenger closed out the virtual production by saying, the theater group remains dedicated to its goal of bringing people together to find a little respite from life's challenges.

"We hope you are united in laughter," he said at the conclusion of the virtual production, speaking to an audience gathered around computer screens in houses throughout the area. "Know there are people in this community who care about you, no matter where you're at or what you're doing. We're still trying to have fun."


New case numbers declining here, vaccine numbers increase

Newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Price County are trending down for the first time in weeks, with 27 cases confirmed between Jan. 25-Feb. 1. As of Monday, Price County had confirmed a total of 1,107 cases of the virus, 27 of which were considered active.

Testing numbers in the county also decreased, with 97 tests administered in the last week compared to 155 tests the week previous. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 6,256 tests administered in Price County, 5,149 of which have returned negative.

On Monday, there were 18,378 active cases of the virus in the state, bringing Wisconsin's total overtime to 543,165.

Even as case numbers are decreasing statewide, the number of people being vaccinated against the virus is increasing. As of Jan. 31, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced that 100,000 Wisconsinites had received both their first and second immunization against COVID-19.

As of Monday, there had been 543,302 vaccines administered statewide, and 1,201 in Price County. These numbers include first and second doses, and therefore do not reflect the number of people fully vaccinated against the virus.

The number of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization is decreasing as well, with only two Price County residents admitted to the hospital with a positive test result in the past week.

Hospital capacity rates, both in the north central region and statewide, have either decreased or held steady in the past week — and the numbers of COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital have also declined.

As of Monday in north central Wisconsin, there were 816 of the region's 1,034 hospital beds in use, for a 79% capacity rate. There were 67 patients with a positive COVID-19 test, 15 of which were in intensive care units. Another three individuals were awaiting test results. Throughout the region, there were 49 ventilators in use.

Statewide, the hospital rate of 78% has held steady since last week, with 8,416 of the state's 10,844 available hospital beds in use. There were 686 COVID-19 patients, 146 of which

were requiring intensive care. There were 44 patients awaiting test results. Across the state, there were 457 ventilators in use.

Since the start of the pandemic, 24,337 Wisconsinites have been hospitalized due to the virus, and 5,877 have died. There have been 518,801 recoveries, 1,073 of which were in Price County residents.

Some of the other counties neighboring Price County have not been so fortunate, seeing declines in new case numbers in the past week.

Oneida County had confirmed 3,139 cases as of Monday — up by 107 new cases since the week previous — with 160 active cases. There have been 146 hospitalizations, 16 of which were current, and 57 deaths attributed to the virus. A total of 2,906 people have recovered, and 19,445 tests have returned negative.

Lincoln County had confirmed 2,807 cases — up by 41 — with 45 active. There have been 109 hospitalizations and 55 deaths attributed to the virus. A total of 2,707 people have recovered, and 10,804 tests have returned negative.

Vilas County had confirmed 2,074 cases — up by 108 — with 209 active. There have been 109 hospitalizations and 35 deaths attributed to the virus. A total of 1,831 people have recovered, and 8,329 tests have returned negative.

Taylor County had confirmed 1,893 cases — up by four — with 101 active. There have been 64 hospitalizations, four of which are current, and 30 deaths attributed to the virus. There have been 5,473 tests that have returned negative.

Sawyer County had confirmed 1,417 cases — up by 29 — with 56 active. There have been 68 hospitalizations and 17 deaths attributed to the virus. A total of 1,343 people have recovered, and 7,708 tests have returned negative.

Rusk County had confirmed 1,228 cases — up by 10 — with 88 active. There have been 81 hospitalizations and 15 deaths attributed to the virus. A total of 1,125 people have recovered, and 4,619 tests have returned negative.

Ashland County had confirmed 1,148 cases, up by 24. There have been 50 hospitalizations and 16 deaths attributed to the virus. A total of 6,494 tests have returned negative.

Iron County had confirmed 476 cases, up by seven. There have been 28 hospitalizations and 19 deaths attributed to the virus. A total of 2,374 tests have returned negative.

No current information on recoveries or active case numbers was available for Iron or Ashland counties.


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