‘Hodag for President’ campaign launched to attract visitors to Rhinelander
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce conducted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning in front of the Chamber’s Hodag statue in recognition of the efforts to recover and reattach four of the Hodag’s claws that were broken off by vandals last December.
RACC executive director Bill Clow presented Rhinelander Police Department detective Brian Zohimsky with a plaque “for hard work and dedication in the Hodag claws investigation.”
The Chamber made a criminal damage complaint about the four claws that were discovered missing on the morning of Dec. 16. Zohimsky investigated the incident and was able to recover the claws.
“The Rhinelander community recognizes the police department’s steadfast importance in the city of Rhinelander, and we express our gratitude for all the men and women who keep our community safe,” Clow said. “Thank you from the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce.”
The two individuals responsible for the damage to the Hodag statue, Jordan G. Henk, 27, of Rhinelander, and Evan R. Christiansen, 31, of Madison, both pleaded not contest in Oneida County Circuit Court to criminal damage to property and were each ordered to perform 20 hours of community service and make restitution payments as determined by the Chamber. Both men admitted using marijuana, drinking alcohol and the subsequent damage to the statue and the theft of the claws.
Local sculptor Chuck Williams donated this time in early June to reattach the four claws, for which the only cost for the repair work was for materials. Williams, who was not present for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, was also recognized for his efforts.
“He did an amazing job…,” Clow said. “I defy anyone to be able to tell which ones were torn off. They look like they’ve always been on there.”
‘HODAG FOR PRESIDENT’
Also on Tuesday, the Chamber announced a promotional campaign, which includes political overtones to go along with this presidential election year, to attract people to the Rhinelander area.
Now that all of the Hodag’s claws are attached and he’s ready to run, Clow declared, “The Hodag is running for president.”
“We could all use a little levity during this campaign season, so it’s the perfect time for a mischievous creature like the Hodag to step into the fray,” he said. “The Hodag stands for Rhinelander values: working hard, valuing family and friends, enjoying nature and experiencing amazing vacations.”
Clow said supporters interested in learning more about the Hodag can visit the hodagforpresident.com website to find out about the Hodag’s platform, which includes bringing more people to downtown Rhinelander, especially during the current Streetscape project, ending boredom by getting people to play the free “Hungry Hodag app” and encouraging visitors to plan their next vacation to Rhinelander.
He said nine downtown businesses on Brown or Davenport Street are “campaign offices” that will have free yard signs, bumper stickers and buttons available.
“We want to give Hodag fans a chance to show their support, whether they’re driving around Oneida County, walking through downtown Rhinelander or simply putting a campaign sign in their yard,” Clow said. “Plus, setting up these campaign offices is a great way to help support our businesses and bring people downtown.”
Unlike an actual presidential campaign covering all 50 states, Clow noted the Hodag won’t be leaving Rhinelander.
“The Hodag will not be going out on a campaign, because why would he want to leave Rhinelander?” he said. “It’s the perfect place already, so why would you want to leave?”
Clow said the purpose of the “Hodag for President” campaign is “to raise awareness of how special Rhinelander is.”