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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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CBA/CRA Salute Nick Witt as 2017 "Person of the Year"

Issue Date: April 12, 2017

"This year's Person of the Year is a Crivitz native, growing up right here in the village... He worked in the family business from early on and, along with his brother, built it into the largest employer in the area, with approximately 135 employees".but that is not the reason (he) was nominated for this award," Ginger Deschane declared as she prepared to announce that Nicholas "Nick" Witt, co-owner of the Witt's Piggly Wiggly Store complex in the village, was about to be presented with this year's Crivitz Business Association's "Person of the Year" award. Deschane, as winner of the award in 2015, was a member of the committee that selected Witt.

Deschane went on to cite numerous contributions of time and money that Witt has made to the community over the years. "He was nominated for his commitment to the community and promoting the Crivitz area," Deschane said. "He believes strongly that Crivitz is a great place and eagerly tells people about our beautiful corner of Wisconsin."

Witt was honored at the annual banquet hosted by Crivitz Recreation Association (CRA) and CBA). About 75 persons attended this year's event, which was held at the Gateway Bar and Restaurant.

"He has been involved in charitable work since his early days helping his father with the Bishop's Charity," Deschane went on. Activities involving children include coaching youth baseball and football, announcing high school football games, chaperoning half a dozen high school band trips, and "running up the bidding at the 4-H auction at the County Fair.

"His financial contributions to the community are many, including sponsoring the new calf barn at the county fairgrounds, the new girls' softball field at the high school, and such events as Oktoberfest and the Red, White and Music Fest" She said thanks to Witt's generosity, Crivitz had the largest fireworks display in the entire area for the last three years. She added, tongue in cheek, "Besides the financial aspect, he works at many community events, doing whatever his wife tells him to do."

As usual at CBA/CRA events, there had been a little good-natured ribbing of Witt throughout the evening.

Nick Witt, son of June and Ernest Witt, grew up in "Crivitz and graduated from Crivitz High School. "If you believe any of the stories he tells, he did not spend nearly enough time in the principal's office," Deschane joked. He married his childhood sweetheart, Sally, and they have been married for 37 years. They have three children and five grandchildren.

Community service follows a family tradition. Wife Sally is president of the CBA and is active in numerous school and community events. She won the Person of the Year award several years ago. His mother, June Witt, was named Person of the Year in the late 1970s.

Deschane noted Nick, Sally and family joined the Crivitz Ski Cats in 1989 and have been extremely active members. Nick started and ran the ski team's largest fund raiser, the Crivitz Classic Three on Three Tournament, for the last 17 years.

He was a founding member of the Marinette County Crime Stoppers and served on their board of directors.

The Person of the Year is selected each year by a nominating committee made up of the winners from the last three years. This year's nominating committee included Luke Deschane, who was selected in 2016; Ginger Deschane, the 2015 honoree, and Joleen Huc, who won the Person of the Year award in 2014.

Ginger Deschane said the idea to select Nick Witt as this year's honoree first was proposed by Luke Deschane, who she quoted, "He deserves the award for continuously running a successful business, giving bountifully to all local charitable groups, and always helping to improve the area of Crivitz."

In accepting the award, Nick said his grandfather (Patsy Witt) and grandmother started the family business 102 years ago in Crivitz. He said his father and mother, (Ernest and June Witt) "installed in all of us a sense of community." He was pleased to introduce his mother, who will soon celebrate her 92nd birthday, and declared she has been a lot of inspiration to him and the entire family.

He clarified that Aaron Sikowski was actually instrumental in getting the Ski Cats 3 on 3 event started.

And to Sally, his wife of 37 years, Witt declared, "She's my inspiration. Everything I cherish is because of her"Thank you. I love you."

The award presentation was followed by drawings for door prizes and the 50/50 raffle and then it was over for another year.

Paul Matty, as emcee, had opened the evening by thanking Huc for making the table decorations. He recognized the three servicemen present; and introduced Firefighter Luke Deschane; State Representative Jeff Mursau of Crivitz; Crivitz Village President John Deschane, and new CBA members John Hofer of Bay Area Medical Center and doctors Kellen and Brianna Groat, who recently opened a chiropractic and wellness center in the village.

John Deschane introduced Chris Cary, owner of Cary Wold Empire, LLC, of Abrams, who designed the new CBA website and a calendar of events page that is intended to serve all organizations in the area. Cary gave a brief video presentation on how to navigate and use the new calendar and website.

Deschane said the biggest problem faced by the various organizations was trying to get one unified community calendar for the greater Crivitz area, and they have now done that.

Multiple events can be posted for any given day, and pop-ups are available for anyone wanting more information on an event.

Deschane urged businesses and organizations to get their events posted on the calendar, hopefully as soon as a date is set to avoid conflicts. He recalled last year the Museum event was held on a busy day with four other events going on in the area. Events can be submitted at the village hall or on line, and will be posted by the clerk's office. Each organization can reach the calendar from its website, and each can be reached from the calendar or the other organization's websites.

"This calendar us going to be as complete as everybody makes it, so get your business events listed on this," Deschane declared.

Mursau, as keynote speaker, focused on on the value of tourism to the greater Crivitz area, Marinette County and the entire state in terms of general economy, job creation, and generation of sales taxes that help reduce need for other taxes. Visitors to the state generated $1.5 billion in stat and local revenue, thus saving taxpayers $640 per household, and had a $19.3 billion impact on Wisconsin's economy in 2015, according to Tourism Economics, a research firm commissioned by the state Department of Tourism to do a study on the economic vale of tourism to the state. For every dollar the Department of Tourism spent on summer and fall advertising in 2015, $8 was returned to the state in additional tax revenue."Wisconsin ranks Number One in the Midwest for fun, family atmosphere, uniqueness, affordability and outdoor recreation, according to Longwoods International, a leader in travel research," Mursau said.

Tourism supports nearly 190,717 jobs throughout the state, adding more than 18,700 jobs since 2011. The total 5-year growth of tourism activity in the state is up more than $4.5 billion, a 30 percent increase from $14.8 billion.

In the state as a whole, agriculture is the most important segment of the economy, followed by forestry and then by tourism. However, in Marinette County, tourism has the largest impact on the local economy.

New numbers will be available in May, but current figures show direct visitor spending in Marinette County increased $10 million from 2014 to 2015, $6.86 percent increase. total business sales were $215.4 million, a 6.18 percent increase. Tourism related employment rose 2.5 percent, total labor income rose 3.55 percent, and state and local taxes from tourism increased 5.16 percent.

Mursau said the motorized trails in Marinette County are one of the reasons visitors come to this area. In 2003 there were 192,211 ATV registrations. In 2016 the number of ATV registrations reached an all-time high of 317,215. Additional, there were 49,531 UTV registrations, up 12,000 from 2015. A study found that most riders come from midwest states and take an average of six ATV trips a year. Most were overnight, and average spending per person per trip was $523.

Mursau said ATV, UTV, off road motorcycles and other off road vehicles are becoming more and more popular. He has been working on several pieces of legislation aimed at getting more money into the off-road trail system to build more trails and to fund the ATV Safety Enhancement Program, on which CBA/CRA is a co-sponsor. Trail projects and ATV/UTV parks would be financed by sales of stickers to help pay for the trails the vehicles use. Mursau said he worked hard on budget allocations for ATVs and UTVs.

He also briefly addressed the state budget hearing to be held in Marinette on Friday, April 21, and expressed great concern over the proposed Back Forty Mine across the Menominee River in Michigan.

"I have great concern over that, and I think everybody should," Mursau said of the controversial Back Forty Mine planned for the Michigan side of the Menominee River just upstream from Wausaukee.

He said the mine will be 750 feet deep and over 2,000 feet across, with a boundary less than 740 feet from the Menominee River. He has been told the mine has the potential to be the largest gold mine in the United States. However, it is a sulfide mine, and the developers want to process the ore on-site, and have plans to construct a $150 million processing plant.

He noted all 30 members of Marinette County Board had voted in favor of a resolution opposing the mine.

The concern is not so much for what will happen while the mine is operating, but for what might happen once it closes, with the tailings put back into the basin with a solution something like Alka Seltzer to neutralize the acid they contain.

Developers of the mine already have three of the four permits they need to make it a reality, Mursau said. He understands plans are to start construction in 2019.

Meanwhile, waste from the mine could contaminate the Menominee River, one of he best small mouth bass fisheries in the United States, and also home to sturgeon and other desirable fish species.

"We as Wisconsin people should be very concerned about what's happening over there," Mursau declared. He said there have been a few protests, and he hopes things do not get as bad as they were in North Dakota, However, property values in the vicinity of the proposed mine are already down on both sides of the river.

Mursau concluded sadly that if this nation recycled all our old telephones we wouldn't need to mine any more precious metal in this country.

"We in Marinette County are absolutely down stream rom what these people wan t to do," Matty agreed. He said the mine threatens a priceless natural resource.

Mursau apologized for being the bearer of bad news.

"We're fortunate that somebody out there is watching out for us," Matty told him.

One of the six public hearings by the legislature's Joint Finance Committee on the bi-annual state budget is to be held in the Marinette High School Auditorium from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, April 21. Mursau said this is the first time in many years that a legislative budget hearing has been held anywhere close to Marinette County.

Next speaker was CRA President John Guarisco. Each place setting at the banquet held a copy of the newest Crivitz Recreation Guide. Guarisco said this sixth annual issue of the guide was put together by himself, Becky Popp, and several others. Publication fits with the purpose for which the CRA was started in 1936 - to promote tourism in the greater Crivitz area.

They had 40,000 copies printed this year, up from 33,000 each of the first five years. Guarisco urged anyone who provides lodging to be sure a copy of the guide is in each room, and urged other business owners to keep copies available and visible for people to pick up. Leon and Becky Popp, Guarisco and others take the books to trade shows around the midwest. "We want to get them out to the public and spread the good word about Crivitz," Guarisco declared.

This year they have also hired a marketing firm to distribute he books at various points along highway corridors in the Midwest.

The Crivitz tourist information booth has been freshened up and now is at a new location on the grounds of the new Bay Area Clinic on Hwy. 141, Guarisco said. Copies for distribution can be picked up there, at his office or at Popp's Resort.

Guarisco was pleased that Marinette County is to be featured on a Discover Wisconsin segment that will air in late April or early May. The production was financed by the Marinette County Tourism budget.

He also was pleased to learn from Marinette County Tourism Coordinator Butch Kostreva that the City of Marinette this year is hosting a national Cabella's Fishing Tournament event, and promised, "If you haven't heard of it, you will!"

Both CRA and CBA have representation on the Marinette County Tourism Alliance, as does the Iron Snowshoe Snowmobile Club.

"Whatever happens in Crivitz, she's involved," Matty declared as he introduced CBA President Sally Witt. Witt introduced CBA introduced officers Amanda Popp, vice president; Jolene Huc, secretary, and Ceil Kostreva, treasurer.

She saluted Amy Sharkey, of Sharkey Floral, for winning this year's florist Designer of the Year Award for Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. Floral centerpieces for the evening had been donated by Sharkey Floral.

Declaring she had been ordered to stay out of the Person of the year selection, Sally Witt turned the floor over to Ginger Deschane. Deschane reminded everyone that the Red White and Music Memorial Day weekend event is just six weeks off. Music this year for the day-long event will be by popular local performers Haley Grace and the Rebels, the Music Jar and Daze to Nights. The fire department does all the work for this event and the money raised goes for improvements at the park, Deschane said.


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