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Stone Lake woman's death investigated

The Sawyer County Sheriff's Office has released the name of the woman found dead of gunshot wounds in her Stone Lake area home Friday, April 2. Authorities do not have a suspect at this time, and are seeking the help of the public.

The Sawyer County Coroner's Office has identified the female as Cary Lynne Elkin, 42, of Stone Lake.

On Friday, April 2, at 12:26 a.m., deputies from the Sawyer County Sheriff's Office responded to a residence on Hungry Lake Lane in the Town of Sand Lake for a call of a deceased female. Upon arrival, deputies discovered the body of a middle-aged, white female deceased in the residence from multiple gunshot wounds.

The Sawyer County Sheriff's Office and the Wisconsin Department of Justice are following up on leads in the case but have no suspect information to release at this time, Sheriff Doug Mrotek said.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to call the Sawyer County Sheriff's Office at (715) 634-4858 or (715) 634-5213. Callers also may report information anonymously on the Sawyer County Tip Line at the Sawyer County Sheriff website.


Hayward students looking forward to first prom in two years

After a year without a prom due to COVID precautions in 2020, a group of Hayward High School juniors and seniors is eagerly planning to hold a special prom Saturday evening, May 15, at the Sawyer County Fairgrounds.

With a theme of "A Garden of Lights," the prom will be traditional in that it will include a dance with a disk jockey and emcee, food, a grand march of couples and a royal court.

But the event will have a slightly different look as the students are working with Sawyer County Public Health and following guidelines, including a larger venue than in past years, with an outdoor atmosphere providing social distancing, facial coverings, food from food trucks and games in the pavilion and outdoors.

The prom will take place from 6:30 to 11 p.m. May 15. At 7:30, the grand march will be live-streamed on Facebook so parents and friends can watch it.

The prom is being planned by a committee consisting of juniors Andreanna Acosta, Anneliese Bauer, Lillian Eytcheson, Matthew Halberg and Megan Peterson, senior Gabrielle Welch and advisers Kelly Egger and Diana Wymer,

"I think it will be really good for morale to have a prom this year after not having a prom last year," Welch said. "We have a whole day planned around the prom; I think people will hang around longer (than in the past). It will help people to feel more included in the school, that it is good for us to have this time together.

"Last year and this year all of our events were canceled," she said. "We haven't had any of our dances, Homecoming, Halloween. The one thing keeping us going was (the prospect of a) prom. It's finally coming up and it feels good.

"I'm pretty excited about it," Peterson said.

Two prom courts will be chosen for 2021, one composed of seniors and one of juniors: four boys and four girls from each class. Weather permitting, the grand march and crowning of the kings and queens will be outdoors.

There will not be underclassmen at the prom unless they are invited as a "Plus One."

Games will available in the pavilion and outdoors, including air hockey, ladder ball and the "Crimes Against Humanity" card game from Amazon.

Also new this year will be an interactive photo booth, where prom-goers can see themselves in a mirror as they get their photos taken.

Students will be able to have their choice of food throughout the evening from Adam Lamoureux' Wings and Shills' Chill Drinks LLC. Tremblay's Sweet Shop is donating truffles for the event and Cindy Gidley is providing the desserts.

Hand sanitizer will be available and masks will be required. There will be designated seating, and tables will be cleaned off after people eat.

Jane Pelant again has helped the prom committee plan the decorating and the "enchanted garden" theme with whites, lights and blush pinks.

Other donors include Eytcheson Forest Products, Lake Chippewa Campground, Dairy Queen Grill and Chill, the Hayward Lions Club, Hayward Sports Center, M&M Rental and Advance Printing.

Egger said that there is an ongoing drive asking people to donate prom dresses that girls can wear.

The junior class scheduled a Dairy Queen Blizzard fundraiser for Wednesday, April 7. They also raised funds by operating a refreshment station at this year's Hayward Lions Pre-Birkie, and they have money left over from previous year's fundraisers that they can use.

"It's really nice for the seniors to be able to have this, who didn't have a prom last year," Egger said. "Prom is a big event for everybody in the community."

Fire season arrives 2 to 3 weeks early this year

On Monday, April 5, Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency due to the "elevated wildfire conditions in the state."

Just a couple days before, on Friday, April 2, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) suspended debris burning in 43 counties, including all of the north. Statewide, there have already been more than 320 wildfires burning over 1,400 acres. Over the weekend, a 30-acre fire erupted to the west in the Washburn County Town of Trego.

There is good news, as the forecast all this week through Sunday includes a chance of rain. Spring rains will mitigate the danger, but then high winds and rising temperatures raise the threat level back within days if not hours under some high-pressure conditions.

In the April 2 Zoom press call, Eric Martin, DNR fire suppression specialist, said the spring fire season — that time "when the snow leaves until it greens up" — is two to three weeks ahead of a typical spring this year. However, it doesn't appear the amount or lack of snowfall over the winter impacted the early fire season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather data for the Hayward area reveals the snowfall for the last three winters, from Nov. 1 to March 31, ranged from 48 inches for the 2020-21 winter to 60 inches in the 2018-19 season, and the snowfall from January to the end of March in 2021 and 2020 were very similar at just over 20 inches.

However, March 2021 was much warmer than the two previous Marches, eliminating the snow cover early. Martin noted the fire danger rises with warmer temperatures, lower humidity and higher winds.

"We are really concerned about our fine fuels like our grass fuels," he said of dead, dry grasses exposed from snow cover. As the fire season progresses, he said, concern turns from dry fuel on the ground to larger sources of fuel such as the crowns of trees.

Martin was asked if the drought conditions in the state impacts the danger level.

"Typically our spring fire season in Wisconsin is more related to the current weather patterns because the fuels will be available three, four days without rain, so anytime that we get rain it kind of dampens things down a little bit, and then it takes a few more days, one to three days, to dry everything back out to where we are at a very high critical fire danger again," he said. "So drought is a factor, but it's not a sole driver factor. It's more about the weather patterns that go across the state every spring."

Because of the early spring, DNR Wildfire Prevention Specialist Catherine Cooley said the DNR was just "a little off," or late, with its timing of its annual spring fire season awareness marketing.

She said the emphasis with this spring's marketing is on not burning illegal material in a campaign called "Keep It Safe; Keep It Clean."

Cooley noted that 98% of wild land fires in Wisconsin are caused by people.

"The No. 1 cause of fires in Wisconsin is related to debris burning," she said, "so folks who are outside ... cleaning up around their yards, raking and then choosing to burn those materials have a high probability of causing a fire with the weather conditions that we're seeing right now."

Cooley was asked why the DNR doesn't take a more aggressive posture, encouraging people to burn debris when there is snow cover, when it is safer. She said there was a social media campaign in February, when there was snow cover, to conduct debris burning during that month.

Martin said it's important to be like the fire-fighting icon Smokey the Bear, who always advises returning to burn sites with shovel and bucket of water to extinguish hot, smoldering embers that could flare up with high winds.

Martin added the DNR was also looking at bringing in "aerial suppression resources," namely single engine air tankers (SEATs), capable of dropping 800 gallons of fire retardant, and helicopters, including those of the National Guard.

The DNR told the Record that one SEAT would be stationed at the airport in Siren and another at the Antigo Airport east of Wausau and two at the Adams/Friendship Airport south of Wausau.


For more information on fire conditions and status of burning, go to the DNR's website, DNR.wi.gov, and search under "Fire" or go directly to dnr.wi.gov/topic/ForestFire/restrictions.asp.

Information on burning permits is available at dnr. wisconsin.gov/topic/forestfire/permits or by calling 888-WIS-BURN (947-2876).

Information on being Firewise, advice on making structures less susceptible to wild land fires, is available at dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/forestfire/preparing.

High interest in gardening continues from 2020
Anywhere from 18 million to 20 million new gardeners in America are preparing to plant this spring

Lori Butala, co-owner of Nature's Design, a greenhouse located on Highway B just east of Hayward, said after she posted a sale for Phasion Canna flowers on the company's Facebook page she was awakened at 2 a.m. the next morning by her phone pinging with an order.

Not only has the phone been ringing at all hours of the day at Nature's Design but other garden supply outlets in the area also are seeing early signs of interest in the upcoming growing season. In fact, many believe the gardening season of 2021 will be as intense as that of 2020, when everything from seeds to seedlings to fencing to even compost and manure were in high demand as many more house-bound people took an interest in gardening.

"Unless you've been living under a rock, 2020 was an 'unprecedented' year to say the least," reads the first line of an article titled "Top Garden Trends to Expect in 2021 according to a leading Plant Company" and published in "The Spruce." "However, despite all the cons that will forever tarnish last year, there is one thing that grew due to more people staying at home — gardening."

In the article, author Debbie Wolfe interviewed Burpee Seeds executive George Ball, who said his company estimates there are 18 million people who began gardening in 2020 because they were spending more time at home during the pandemic.

Nathan Rondeau, assistant manager at Rondeau's True Value Shopping Center in Cable, said he's read industry news stating that the number of new gardeners nationwide is more like 20 million.

One of the very visible signs that interest in gardening continues this spring is the shortage of canning jars. Most stores don't have any. It's even difficult for retailers to find canning jars, which normally are in demand in the fall when everyone is preserving vegetables.

"We finally got a few mason jars two or three weeks ago," Rondeau said. "Otherwise we had been out for about eight months. We still can't get just lids or just rings. We're on allocation, backorder, but we are starting to see some jars trickle back."

Rondeau believes people remember how difficult it was to secure jars in 2020 and when they see any on sale now they buy them immediately.

All signs this spring point to another growing season with high demand for products. If you walk into stores selling seeds, you'll see some species of vegetables totally sold out or very few pots available for starting seedlings.

"It looks like it's going to be another year of high volume garden stuff, lots of dirt, lots of seeds, fencing, things like that," Rondeau said. "We've sold a lot of stuff like starter mix early, so the potential of a lot of people gardening again this year is very high. I think a lot of people got hooked on it last year."

Butala says not only did a lot of new people get into gardening last year but because they were home and had time to attend to their new garden many of them had success, and the success keeps them encouraged to continue.

Putting a plug in for her industry, Butala said another reason gardeners were so successful is because of advice provided by the many knowledgeable professionals at local greenhouses.

"They can help people make the right choices," she said. "We have a lot of good growers here."

To help her customers, Nature's Designs offers "potting parties" at which customers are shown how to properly seed pots and the pots are left in the greenhouse to mature for the customers to pick up.

Jim Wilson, manager of Winter Green House, said 2020 was a phenomenal year for all greenhouses. The demand was so great for vegetable seedlings that many sold out early.

"I really can't remember another year when we haven't had to have a sale for the annuals (those that didn't sell earlier in the season), and that was the same for everybody," he said.

Wilson said the Winter Green House wasn't plan ning on opening until April 29 for a root sale but he anticipates there will be pressure to open earlier because of demand.

"We think it's going to be another great year," he said. "People got very interested in gardening last year. We saw many new customers and I think they will be interested again this year."

Wilson said he has also read there are 20 million new gardeners in America.

"They had the time and they got the stimulus checks and they wanted to grow their own food, and gardening is something you can do from your home," he said.

Trisha Brassill, owner of Big Brook Greenhouse in Cable, opened her business in spring of 2020 not knowing what to expect. Within a short time customers had completely bought out her supplies of vegetable seedlings and were demanding more. Now, coming into 2021 season Brassill is already receiving a high volume of orders from landscapers and she is expanding growing areas for vegetables.

"I have landscapers who are waiting on orders from last year, " she said. "There is so much demand for product."

Brassill estimates 20% of her customers are new to gardening and 25% are those who are returning to gardening.

"Those 25% used to garden and they got busy, but then they were off the road and athome because of the pandemic and they returned to gardening," she said. "Those returning to gardening are often surprised at the new products available."

Cheyanne Reeves, executive director of the Cable Community Farm, which offers community garden plots to the public, said the farm has added more plots because of heightened interest. And she reports that many people are also interested in attending educational workshops to learn more about growing local food and being self-sufficient.

Because of demand, Rondeau said retailers are facing restraints from suppliers, who are limiting how much is available for store shelves.

Wilson said the Winter Green House has a well-established supply relationship and doesn't anticipate any problems, except possibly from some suppliers in Texas.

Butala said Nature's Design is encouraging customers to order early.

"We're taking orders early for things so we don't hurt people's feelings," she said. "So that people have a chance to get the stuff that they really love, we've been saying, 'Let's get your order in and we can take care of you.'"


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