WHEN I TOOK A ROAD TRIP to Boston earlier this year, I learned something about my home state. Or rather, what others think of Minnesota. Whether in Indiana or New York or Massachusetts, folks reacted the same upon learning I was a Minnesotan. “It’s cold there,” they said.
Yes, it’s cold here. But not year-round. In the end, I decided, let them believe what they wish. Such opinions keep Minnesota from becoming densely populated like the Coasts.
Rolling hills and farms define the land east of La Crosse along Interstate 90 in the southwestern part of Wisconsin..
But that got me thinking about how I view people and places, specifically Wisconsin and its residents. I’ve traveled there many times in the past five years to visit my daughter Miranda who lives on the northeastern side of the state.
Packers fans houses in Wautoma? Or simply a gold house and a green house? Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.
Here’s my outsider’s impression of Wisconsinites: fanatical about the Green Bay Packers, crazy about brat and fish fries, and lovers of cheese and beer. Wisconsin residents also seem particularly opinionated. And many love to hunt. Of course, I’m sweeping my neighboring state with a broad brush of generalities. Just like others do about Minnesota.
A tribute to Aaron Rodgers on a barn along Highway 10 west of Appleton. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.
Let’s examine my impressions more closely. I’ve seen Wisconsin fire hydrants painted Packers green and gold and brat buns and kettle corn in the same colors. And I’ve photographed a barn with this message: #12 is #1 G. If you’re not dressed in a Packers jersey on game day, well, you feel totally unfashionable. On game day weekends, Green Bay area hotels jack up the room prices as much as $100. My daughter clued me in on that.
The brat barn, stationed outside the Piggly Wiggly in Wautoma. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.
I’m not a brat lover, so I could never pass as a Wisconsinite. From my observations, brat fries are the most popular fundraiser in this state with brat fry shacks stationed outside many grocery stores. Friday night fish fries are equally as popular.
Van Handel’s Cheese Hut, also a gas station and convenience store, is located in Appleton.
Wisconsin definitely lives up to its name as the Dairyland State. Cheese stores abound. The funny thing, every time I travel to Wisconsin, Miranda asks me to bring cave-aged blue cheese from Faribault. So I stash wedges in a cooler and sneak Minnesota-made cheese across the border.
I photographed this signage along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.
Like cheese, booze is readily available in Wisconsin. For example, you’ll find walk-in beer coolers at Kwik Trip convenience stores, co-joined grocery and liquor stores, and lots of breweries. Twelve Wisconsin communities rank in the top 20 drunkest cities in America. According to a May 2016 report on 24/7 Wall St, “Appleton is home to the largest share of binge and heavy drinkers in both Wisconsin and the country.”
A strong opinion expressed on a billboard along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.
On a recent visit, and in past visits, I’ve also noticed plenty of opinions posted roadside, sometimes on billboards and other times on homemade signs. In Redgranite, a homeowner recently scrawled “Send Hillary to prison” and placed the message board along busy State Highway 21. I’ve also noticed strongly worded messages in billboards posted along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.
A pawn shop, somewhere along State Highway 21 between Omro and Tomah advertises guns.
Finally, hunting seems a popular sport in Wisconsin based on the number of deer stands and deer processing places. While I’m not a big fan of hunting for sport, I do appreciate that hunting makes for fewer deer on roadways.
So…is my general assessment of Wisconsin fair and/or accurate? I do, by the way, really like Wisconsin, including the cheese and the beer.
© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling