Northwoods inventor seeks support for unique attraction
By Eileen Persike
The tale of the Kovac Planetarium in Monico is not an unfamiliar one. In fact, it’s been told many times by local and national journalists, and even documented in a book written by a pair of newspaper reporters from Milwaukee. The story begins in 1970’s Chicago when Frank Kovac, Jr. fell in love with the stars.
“As a child, I got interested in astronomy and my parents would let me do little star dots on the bedroom wall,” Frank recalled. “A fascination with glow paint led to all of this!”
“All of this,” refers to the ten years of trial and error, planning, building, planning and painting what became the world’s largest mechanical globe planetarium. The 22 foot , two-ton structure is made of wood, with 5,000 stars hand painted in precisely the right spot. He built the building which houses the museum, around the globe. It is dedicated in his dad’s memory for sharing the stars with him as a child. This summer, it will be nine years since Kovac opened his homemade planetarium to the public.
The gigantic wooden structure creaked, snapped and thumped as Kovac turned a switch allowing the globe to position itself to view the 6 p.m. Northwoods sky. Frank Kovac, in his soft-spoken, patient way explained that to keep the planetarium open and the tales passed down to future generations, he needed a little help. Financial help.
Last spring Kovac made the difficult decision to go back to full time work, operating the planetarium by appointment and when it fit his schedule.
“I am able to operate it, but I’m not able to operate it enough because of working full time at the paper mill,” the inventor said. “Shift work makes it very challenging to be open for shows. I’m thinking of going back to this full time.”
Some friends suggested crowd funding, going on line to raise money from strangers, and Frank decided it was worth a shot. A Go Fund Me campaign was launched Christmas eve.
“I would like to raise $100,000 in order to quit my job. That would pay off the mortgage, and I could run this full time,” Frank said. “I’ve been doing repairs, dusting, cleaning and getting ready for school field trips, church groups and other organizations to come out.”
So far, he said, response has been good, which has allowed him to contemplate improvements.
“People call this the ‘hidden gem of the Northwoods,’ and I think it really is,” Kovac said. “I know that if I could just get out and talk to more people, this museum would be successful.”