New kayaking, birding, ballet events surface

Looking for an unusual twist for your next quick getaway? Consider these ideas, gleaned from people and materials at the recent Governor’s Council on Tourism convention in Green Bay.

If you love sea kayaking and want to improve your skills in scenic surroundings, consider the June 17-20 Inland Sea Kayak Symposium in Washburn and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Presented by the Inland Sea Society, the itinerary includes paddle tours to sea caves, islands and a shipwreck. They are categorized by degree of difficulty.

Class choices include beginner to advanced paddling techniques, rescue instruction, clinics for women, open water rolling. There will be advice about how to choose a kayak, build one and repair one.

Instructors come from Mexico, Great Britain and the Living Adventure travel company in Bayfield. Registration is not cheap: It’s $225 per person before June 12, or $125 for one-day participation. Meals and lodging are not included. For more, go to or call (715) 682-8188.

Must ballet lovers wait until “The Nutcracker” every December, to get their fix? Not if they go to Wausau, where a relatively new dance company is getting national attention.

Wausau Dance Theatre presents “Sleeping Beauty,” the newest installment of its “Storybook Series,” on May 7-8. Local dancers accompany professionals who are hired from throughout the nation. For details, go to or call (715) 843-5444. For tickets, call (715) 842-0988.

Artistic director Patrik Kasper danced with Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and was inspired by his mother, founder of the Central Wisconsin School of Ballet and also a former Joffrey dancer.

The Wausau company was featured in “Dance Teacher” magazine this winter. Other productions have included “Alice in Wonderland,” “Carnival of the Animals” and “The Tales of Beatrix Potter.” Fans include actor Henry Winkler; he and actor Tony Randall have worked for the company as production narrators.

A new birding and nature trail will be introduced May 20 at the Crex Meadows Interpretive Center, Grantsburg. Crex Meadows is 30,000 acres of wetland, prairie and forest. Proponents contend that it is as abundant with wildlife as Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, Mayville.

The American Bird Conservancy calls Crex Meadows one of the nation’s top 500 bird areas. “One of the highlights is the number of endangered and threatened animals present,” promotional materials contend. “Crex has breeding populations of ospreys, eagles, trumpeter swans, Karner blue butterflies, Blandings turtles and red-necked grebes.”

Visitors are not allowed into the heart of Crex Meadows, to protect the habitat. The new birding trail is a part of a statewide effort to identify the prime places where various species of birds live and migrate.

For more, go to or call (715) 463-2739. The opening of the Crex Meadows part of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail will be a four-day celebration that also includes cheese factory tours, bus tours of wildlife areas, a wildlife art expo, hot air balloon rides and the annual Lilac Festival.

Wisconsin’s newest hint of blarney can be seen in Green Bay, where the pub and restaurant of the new St. Brendan’s Inn opened this month. Rooms aren’t quite yet ready for overnight guests.

The building’s stained glass is being shipped in from Ireland. This is another project of Cary James “Rip” O’Dwanny, whose other Irish inns include the County Clare in Milwaukee and 52 Stafford in Plymouth. Both have an authentic Irish flair.

The Green Bay property, at 234 S. Washington St., is even too new for an Internet site; call (920) 884-8484 to learn more. Room rates will be $80-100, which includes breakfast – and freshly baked cookies upon check-in.

This year’s new Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua production, which is the pride of northern Wisconsin, will be about … Minnesota. That’s partly because show host Warren Nelson is from Minnesota, and that state’s bicentennial will be in 2008 – so the cast can get a lot of mileage out of this musical.

“Old Minnesota: Song of the North Star” makes its debut at 7:30 p.m. June 16. For more about that and other shows in the tent theater, which is near Bayfield, go to or call (888) 244-8368.

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board has updated its “Taster’s Guide to Wisconsin,” a free map that shows where all the cheese, beer and wine samples and tours are in the state. There are 138 sites marked; addresses, phone numbers and Internet sites also are noted.

To get a copy, go to and select “promotions,” or call (608) 836-8820.

It’s not on the taster’s map, but this year’s Monroe Cheese Days will be Sept. 17-19. There will be a new event: a cheesecake contest. Surf over to, where details eventually will be posted.

Dinner theater shows at Old World Wisconsin, Eagle, this year will include Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” July 9-11; Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” Oct. 15-17; and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Nov. 26-28.

Cost is $45 for adults; $40 for ages under 18. For more, go to or call (262) 594-6305.

Wildlife artist Ray Mertes of Trempealeau has made fresh water fish his specialty, and his paintings have been exhibited nationally. Now he’s done a respectable job of showing water life in a different way, by painting paddlewheelers on the Mississippi.

“Mississippi River Excursion” is the name of the work he has produced on behalf of the upcoming Grand Excursion 2004 celebration in late June that will involve more than 50 riverfront communities, from the Quad Cities to the Twin Cities.

Prints are being sold to help finance Trempealeau’s part of the party. To learn more, call Russ Stevens at (608) 534-5092. Mertes, by the way, had a severe heart attack one year ago and was hospitalized for months. That makes this newest work particularly remarkable, as the artist is awaiting a heart transplant.

To see Mertes’ art, go to