Jan 19 2008
You are unlikely to seek Hulls Crossing at all, but especially as a vacation destination. It is the farming community in northwest Sheboygan County where I was raised, and little more than a road sign exists today.
Things were a slightly different when Hulls Crossing had a railroad stop long ago, but now the tracks head elsewhere, and the only employer – Hulls Crossing Cheese Factory – burned to the ground in the early 1960s. It was a spectacular blaze that I could almost feel from my bedroom window.
So the town died instead of becoming vibrant, although its future as a wetlands restoration project certainly is far more honorable than, say, being home to yet another McDonald’s or Starbucks in this country.
A dozen miles northeast, people are quietly working to make sure the village of Franklin is not forgotten. The Franklin Haus Village Tavern and Market, originally established in 1857, is open on weekends in a Sheboygan River community that doesn’t have a place on Wisconsin’s official map.
Proprietors are making Franklin Haus part micro-brew saloon, part artisan product showcase, part gathering spot for the locals and others. A ballroom can accommodate up to 200. For more: www.franklinhauswisconsin.com, 920-565-2565.
Wisconsin is full of Lake Wobegon tales about places that are remarkably ordinary and too easily buried from memory. The line between surviving and thriving sometimes is not all that thick.
I’m thinking about all of this because my colleague Gary Knowles of Madison is at it again. He is Wisconsin’s strongest and most knowledgeable ambassador, who one year ago led a grassroots effort to determine the Wonders of Wisconsin, in response to the naming of the new Wonders of the World.
Now Gary has found a way for us to help Wisconsin’s smallest communities shine. He’s looking for your nominations of our best towns, in 21 categories. “Small town” is defined having a population of no more than 15,000 people.
The community also must be listed on the Official Wisconsin Highway Map. Sorry, Franklin.
Here are the categories:
Most Scenic Beauty – The area around the town is spectacular, awesome.
Most Beautiful Town – The town itself (buildings, roads, natural setting) is beautiful.
Most Exciting Architecture – Historic, contemporary, futuristic – however defined, the town’s structures are definitely interesting.
Best Galleries and Arts Scene – Artists and galleries make for a vibrant cultural life.
Best Theater and Entertainment – This is the best town for plays, concerts and/or other entertainment.
Best Festival Weekend – From pickles to mushrooms to fish to cheese, which is the best town to visit to enjoy a themed weekend festival?
Best Dining – Great places to eat make this town great.
Best Fishing Getaway – Consider the location and amenities available.
Best Biking Getaway – This could be the best overnight base or riding stop.
Best Snowmobiling Getaway – Consider the location and amenities available.
Boating Getaway – Sails, paddles or motor: Where should you take your boat?
Best Cross Country Skiing – Skiing can happen almost anywhere there’s snow, but consider the location and amenities available.
Best Downhill Skiing – When your weekend is all downhill, where should you stay or stop?
Best Ethnic Getaway – Which community seems most enriched by another culture?
Best Shopping – Consider flea markets to internationally known labels.
Best Historic Town – The community offers significant and/or interesting lessons in history.
Best On a Lake – Consider lake beauty and access when selecting this community.
Best On a River – Consider river beauty and access when selecting this community.
Most Romantic – When you want to get away with your lover, to which town should you head?
Best for Families – When the getaway is a family affair, which community is best?
Best Weekend Getaway – All things considered, if expense is not an issue, what town has it all – the right combination of factors — to make it the best in Wisconsin?
Go to www.WondersOfWisconsin.com to make a nomination in any or all categories, but participation is limited to one shot per e-mail address. There is room to provide a brief (20 words, max) supporting statement for each candidate.
Nominations will be accepted until Feb. 15. A handful of us will head to the Governor’s Mansion later that month, to evaluate the contributions with first lady Jessica Doyle.
Finalists will be announced in early March, when a round of voting begins online. Deadline for voting is April 24, and winners will be determined soon afterward.