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Announcing the 51st Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival September 11-13, 2015

posted Jul 30, 2015, 9:43 AM by Al Schema   [ updated Aug 4, 2015, 3:49 AM ]
   We are happy to announce the 51st annual Wisconsin Speleological Society (WSS) Hodag Hunt Festival is scheduled for September 11-13, 2015, and we are set for yet another fun and adventurous caving celebration weekend. The Hodag Hunt Festival is a yearly weekend caving jubilee for Wisconsin and the surrounding states’ cavers. It is a great time to get together for exploring caves during the day, later reconnecting and relaxing with fellow cavers, and above all, having lots of social fun and camaraderie. Everyone is welcome to attend. You do not have to be a WSS member or be affiliated with any other caving grotto to attend. Beginning cavers are all welcome.

   This year’s event will be at Devils River Campground which is known for its scenic river waterfalls (http://campdevilsriver.com/), located near Maribel, Wisconsin in northeastern Wisconsin. Devils River Campground is just off Interstate Hwy I-43 at the Maribel exit and is halfway between Manitowoc and Green Bay, Wisconsin. To get to the campground, take the Maribel exit and travel east onto Hwy 147 for less than a quarter mile and then turn north onto County Hwy R for two miles.

 

  Why Devils River Campground:  Devils River campground is centrally located to almost 50 caves in the area. Amazingly, all these caves are within a short one-mile drive from the campground! Unlike years past, this year’s reserved camping sites will feature eight full- service electric and water sites. These large side-by-side sites will have plenty of room for multiple units or tents, so there will be plenty of room for everyone. Unique this year also, the sites are all a very short walking distance from the campgrounds’ bathrooms, free showers, and coin operated laundry facility. Camping attendees can arrive after 2:00 pm on Friday to start setting up for the Hodag Hunt Festival activities. Also of importance to the WSS is the fact that Devils River Campground is less than a mile drive from Cherney Maribel Caves County Park. The WSS has spent an exorbitant amount of time and energy since 2003 in restoring and preserving the nine caves that have been found in the park. The biggest cave restored so far in the park is Maribel New Hope Cave. It has become one of the most significant caves in Northeast Wisconsin and a must see. It has been restored to be about 800 feet of passages. Most of the passages are all walking or stooping passages. The caves also have crawling passages for the more adventurous cavers. The cave is highly decorated with many cave formations. The cave formations featured and will be seen are “Stalactites,” ”Columns,” “Helictites,” “Ribbons or Curtains,” “Cave Bacon,” “Soda Straws,” “Cave Coral,” and lots and lots of “Flow Stone.”  We also have a unique living cave formation of “Moon Milk,” which is rare in most caves found anywhere.

    Caving Equipment Needs and Awareness: At a minimum for caving equipment needs, a protective hard helmet and hands-free lights of some sort are a must. Hiking boots, protective clothing, and knee pads are highly recommended for any of the Hodag caving trips. You will want to bring a camera, too, as there will be spectacular photo opportunities and memorable moments during the whole weekend of the 51st Hodag Hunt Festival celebration that you will want to capture for a lifetime.

   Please note, we do have two very important equipment requirements for everyone who is going into the caves during the Hodag Hunt: 1) Everyone needs to have clean caving equipment to protect against the spread of the devastating White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). See the WSS website information at (http://www.wisconsincaves.org/WNS) for the latest updates on WNS. The link also provides the latest caving gear decontamination protocols from the US Fish and Wildlife Service; and 2) No one may use caving equipment and clothing in Wisconsin caves that has been in caves outside of Wisconsin per Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources regulations. A decontamination station will be provided by the WSS to keep your equipment clean.

   Hodag Fun: The WSS uses the Hodag Hunt Festival weekend as a caving social gathering and uses the funds raised at the Hodag auction to support its various caving activities throughout the year. Besides great caving opportunities on both Saturday and Sunday, the WSS offers a great breakfast on both mornings, a banquet dinner on Saturday night, and an auction after our evening meal. Please do bring items for the auction and some extra money for the great buys and interesting finds you will see. Night activities include campfires at night and some spontaneous singing and playing of music if one is inclined to do so.

   Camping: The WSS fee for camping with full electricity and water hookups is on-site at $7 per night/person. Large families will only be charged a maximum of $28 per night/family. Individual sites are still available for the Hodag dates, but do get your reservations locked in early directly through Devil’s River staff (http://campdevilsriver.com/) as they do fill up quickly. Individual campsite fees are listed at $34/night on Fridays and Saturdays and $30/night for Sunday through Thursday.

   Registration: All participants for the Hodag Hunt Festival must register for the event. The Hodag on-site registration will begin Friday evening about 7:00 and continue through Saturday morning. On-site registration for ages 16 and above is $11, including the 2015 Hodag Hunt Festival Guidebook, and will also include a free 50th Hodag Hunt Festival t-shirt (while supplies last). There is no registration fee for kids age 15 and under.

   Banquet Meal: Our banquet and auction will be at Suster’s Arcade Restaurant, a short 4-mile drive in Denmark, WI. Suster’s Arcade Restaurant has bar none the best broasted chicken in the area! Our meal will be family style all you can eat fish and chicken for the special price of $15/per adult. Kids meals from age 0 to 4 are $5 and ages 5 to 8 are $8. The meal includes battered fish and broasted chicken and their family style bowl pass-around servings of coleslaw, potato salad, tartar sauce, rye bread and rolls, pickles, mashed potato, gravy, dressing, and sauerkraut. We also have the room reserved for the after-meal auction. They have two full service bars and an excellent waitress service, so you can sit down and enjoy your meal. Drinks will be at your own expense.

   Breakfast:  Both Saturday and Sunday mornings will feature an all you can eat breakfast put on by the WSS right at the reserved campsites. The breakfast is $5 per person/meal, and will include pancakes, breakfast sausages, fruit, milk, coffee, and juices. You just never know what multiple unique flavors of pancakes will be offered this year by our renowned resident chef, Allan Schema.

    Hodag Wild Caving Trips: Saturday trips will be offered from 10:00AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Sign-up sheets will be available at breakfast on Saturday. A 9:30 welcome and trip briefing on Saturday is required attendance for everyone participating in any planned WSS trip activities. For caving trips, everyone needs to be aware of White Nose Syndrome decontamination protocol in order to participate. Decontamination info will be provided at Registration and in the Hodag Festival Guidebook. The Hodag Hunt Festival will offer wild caving opportunities to see 9 caves in Cherney Maribel Caves County Park and across the river at the Metz/Schweiner properties, where around 40 caves can be visited. Both these locations are a short one-mile drive from the campground. Other caves in the area with further driving distances will also be offered as they become available.

 

  Alternative Caving Activities: Devil’s River Campground is only a 40-minute drive away from Green Bay, WI. Green Bay major attractions include: Green Bay Botanical Gardens, Oneida Bingo & Casino, New Zoo, Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, Bay Beach Amusement Park, Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, Heritage Hill State Historical Park, and much more (see http://www.greenbay.com/). Devil’s River Campground is only a 30-minute drive from Manitowoc/Two Rivers. Manitowoc/Two Rivers major attractions include: Lincoln Park Zoo, The Bernard Schwartz House, Wisconsin Maritime Museum, and much more (see http://www.manitowoc.org/vcb/attractions.html). You are also just a 2-hour drive to most attractions in Door County (see http://www.explorewisconsin.com/countypages/door.asp).

   51st Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival:  We are hopeful you will be able to join us for yet another fun Hodag Hunt Festival weekend. Early registration for the event will save you money on both registration and camping fees.

Look for our registration form on the WSS website at (http://www.wisconsincaves.org/) or in our WSS Newsletters. Early registrations must be mailed in no later than Friday, September 4th. Festival attendees are reminded to be on the lookout for the elusive Hodag. The captor of the Hodag will be given a finder’s prize at the auction. Remember the WSS caving motto: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”  Have a safe caving adventure, wherever the caving trail may lead you!