Frontline medical workers at Marshfield Clinic-Rice Lake began receiving vaccinations against COVID-19 Thursday.
It was announced earlier in December that Marshfield Clinic Health System would serve as an initial distribution site to serve northcentral Wisconsin in the state "hub-andspoke" model for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
The state Department of Health Services provided the health system with the vaccines.
"Marshfield Clinic Health System has been preparing for a COVID-19 vaccine for the past several months," Marshfield Clinic Health System CEO Dr. Susan Turney said in a news release.
Although vaccinations have begun, the health system said it will take some time to distribute the vaccine and urged the public to wear masks and practice social distancing.
The Wisconsin National Guard will be offering free drive-through COVID-19 testing in Barron County. Free testing will be available Jan. 5, 12, 19, 26; Feb. 2, 9, 16, 23; and March 2 and 9.
Testing will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. The testing site is located at the Barron Fire Department, 28 S. 4th Street Barron. Testing is open to all Wisconsin residents ages 5 and up.
"We are excited to be able to continue offering this service for our community", Barron County Health Officer Laura Sauve said. "Anyone who is experiencing symptoms or has been in close contact with someone who tested positive is encouraged to go and be tested."
To register visit register.covidconnect.wi.gov/en-US/or in person upon arrival.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include: fever or chills; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; fatigue; muscle or body aches; headache; new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; diarrhea.
A Mikana woman's simple birthday wish for a string of lights has turned into an ever-growing outdoor holiday display that is brightening their whole neighborhood.
Meet the Falstads — Kris and Christi — who live on Highway V, between Brill and Mikana.
One December, 28 years ago, Kris asked his wife what she wanted for her Dec. 2 birthday.
Christi's sister, Cindy Worrell of Alaska, loves sharing the story. She said, "Money being tight for this newly-married couple, her request was a simple display of Christmas lights."
She continues, "Her request was fulfilled, and a tradition was started. Every year on Dec. 2, a small portion of County Road V near Red Cedar Lake is aglow with a colorful display, which expands a little each year.
"There is a candy cane garden, a meadow of snowmen, a nativity, and decorated trees line the driveway to name a few. Many of the locals anticipate the display's return every year. A simple birthday request has turned into a beautiful display and a gift of happiness to all who witness it. The lights are on until Jan. 1. I hope you drive out and take a look. They encourage people to drive up the driveway for the full effect."
Christi said, "Our first blow mold figure was a life-size Santa. Each year the collection grew and grew."
Christi commented, "I'm happy to share my birthday gifts with others. It makes my heart warm to know I have made others smile."
Husband Kris said his favorite thing about the Christmas lights is knowing that he can take someone's mind off of their troubles as they smile at the glow. He said seeing the colors shine in the darkness always makes him feel happy.
In the years since the display's start, two daughters — 23-year-old Mikayla and 19-year-old Mady — have joined the family and have also helped add to the collection.
"A few years ago the girls and Kris constructed a life-size [wooden] gingerbread family as a surprise for me," Christi said. "Of course I cried at all the time and talent they put into them."
Christi said the candy cane garden incorporates her dad's collection of farm equipment and the penguin village started after her husband once said he thought he saw a penguin while out hunting.
She assured him that here are no penguins in the woods of northern Wisconsin — but now there is a village of ornamental penguins in their front yard.
Christi said another special memory is a letter she received from a neighbor who was in poor health who said seeing the lights made her Christmas complete.
"She is now an angel seeing the lights from heaven," Christi said.
Another neighbor, Kathryn Langevin, shared, "This Christmas-obsessed family gives us a wonderful light show that grows each year."
Rosey Grab of Birchwood said, "We look forward to seeing the Christmas lights every year by K & C Campground. The Christmas spirit is alive and well, and they bring smiles to our children's and our faces every time we drive by."
Christi noted, "Many locals have commented how happy it makes them to bring their children and grandchildren through the drive. This warms our hearts."
Older daughter Mikayla remarked, "I love seeing the smile my mom gets from all the work my dad puts into putting these beautiful lights up for her birthday."
Younger daughter Mady said, "My favorite time of year isn't just a holiday, it's a month. Starting every Dec. 2, my dad puts on an amazing light display to make every year more meaningful and special for my mom — from the snowman village to the giant gingerbread family."
Unlike others who put out massive displays, Christi said, "We have never counted how many lights or displays we have. We just put them up!"
She added, "We have had help from family with burying lines, hooking up electric and other necessities to make this happen."
Thinking back to their humble start, Christi said, "Little did Kris know the commitment he was making. Sometimes he wishes he would have just bought a fancy piece of jewelry for that birthday 28 years ago, but then he thinks of all of the happiness he has created and he is glad he has put so much into the lights.
She added, "We are by no means professional light display people, but we sure love to shine."
A specialty retail shop had a soft opening in downtown Rice Lake last week. Wild Soul has opened in the former White Stag at 208 N. Main St., between Two Sisters and Vertical Blinds.
The owner is Vanessa Aspseter-Hellstern of Rice Lake, who has made a vision she has had for the last five or six years into a reality.
"With so many stores closing this year, I wanted to give back to the community," she said.
The shop owner is not daunted by opening during a pandemic. "No matter when you open a business, it's a gamble," she said.
"I wanted to do my own thing, and I wanted to teach my children that anything is possible in any stage of your life," she said.
Shoppers will find a variety of items for gift-giving or to treat themselves — jewelry, candles, mugs, clothing, cards, children's items, belts, hats and more.
The shop owner said her goal is to keep buying from an ever-revolving supply chain with ever-changing products.
What will be common among all her products is that they will be U.S. made, they will be handmade originals and a portion of their profits will be used for good causes.
"Things that align with my heart and vision," she explained.
She said, for example, 5% of the proceeds made by the Calyan Wax Co. goes to anti-human trafficking efforts. She sells their candles at her store because she supports that cause.
"I'm hoping there's something for everyone," she said, noting prices range from $10 on up.
The shop owner said she would love to put together gift packages for people for any price range.
"I want to give people that option," Aspseter Hellstern said.
She also encourages people to take "sneak peeks" on Facebook and Instagram and to watch for a grand opening the first week in February.
Holiday shop hours this week and next are Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon with the shop closed Friday and Saturday.
Regular shop hours in the new year, starting Jan. 5, are Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The shop will be closed on Sunday and Monday.
Aspseter-Hellstern knows there will be some challenges, but she is going to give it her best effort.
"I have put my heart and soul into it, and I have to give myself some grace," she said.