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By Erin Vander Weele

A look back at the top stories of 2017

Sauk Prairie


January 4, 2018

Sprecher Photography

Law enforcement agencies responded to a domestic-related incident Sept. 25 at an apartment near the Sauk Prairie High School when a suspect was not cooperating with police officers. The suspect surrendered without incident. He was taken into custody and no injuries occurred. All students participating in the homecoming bonfire and other activities at the school were evacuated from the area during the time of the incident.

Part 1

As we begin 2018, the Star News editor takes a look back on the past year's stories in Sauk Prairie. The stories listed are one person's opinion on the highlights of 2017. Stories 6-10 are below. The top five stories will be published in the next edition of Star News.

6. Students evacuated as police responded to domestic incident near school

Sauk Prairie students participating in the homecoming bonfire and other school activities were evacuated from the area Sept. 25 as police responded to a domestic incident near the high school.

Around 6:30 p.m., Sauk Prairie police officers were following up on a domestic report that occurred earlier that day. The 29-year-old male suspect was not cooperating with officers and refused to come out of the apartment building on the 100 block of Maple Street, according to Sauk Prairie Police Chief Jerry Strunz. 

"He communicated that he was not going to go to jail without making it worth his while," Strunz said. "He basically showed signs of aggression and irritation toward the officers from inside the building, without coming out to meet the officers."

The man later surrendered without incident, just over an hour after police arrived at the scene. Strunz said a Sauk Prairie Police crisis intervention training officer was able to negotiate the suspect to step out of the building just as the Emergency Response team was arriving at the location. 

During the incident, a 2-year-old and 6-year-old were in the apartment with the suspect. After surrendering, the suspect was taken into custody and no injuries occurred. Strunz said the suspect was not armed. The Sauk Prairie Police Department received assistance from Sauk County Sheriff's Department, emergency responders, and multiple law enforcement agencies within the county.

Sauk Prairie Middle School Principal Ted Harter said district staff responded well in helping relocate the students to an off-site area once authorities informed them of the incident.

"I am happy with our response. I think we got kids to a safe, supervised setting very quickly," Harter said. "I think the staff that were here that were on site for activities or other things did an outstanding job of making decisions to keep kids safe, which is the primary goal."  

District superintendent Cliff Thompson said Harter and Assistant High School Principal Shane Been "sensitively and skillfully responded to a crisis incident in the community."  

"They teamed with staff at the high school along with local and county law enforcement as well as emergency personnel to respond to the situation so that at no time were students and staff in danger."  

Thompson said the district celebrates the excellent work of local law enforcement, emergency personnel, and school district staff.

"We deeply value the partnerships with local agencies, which allow us to meet our most sacred duty of keeping our students and staff safe," Thompson said.

Harter said staff is now reflecting and looking at areas of improvement for responding to incidents that take place during after school hours.

"Most of that is in the area of communication, how we communicate with each other during an incident and how we communicate with families and staff," Harter said. "I think we did a fairly good job even with that last night, but that's where a lot of the reflection is today."

7. Badger museum re-opens 

Three years after closing due to building code requirements, the Museum of Badger Army Ammunition officially re-opened.

Operator of the museum, the Badger History Group, raised $37,000, surpassing its $35,000 goal, to bring the more than 45-year-old building up to code. The BHG members have been working since the group's establishment in 1998 to preserve the story of the Badger Ordnance Works/Badger Army Ammunition Plant. About 30 people gathered to celebrate the re-opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on June 1. 

"I want to thank all of the people who contributed, and all the members of our Badger History Group, especially the board members," said Orie Eilertson, Badger History Group Board President.

The museum, located on the land of the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant in Building 207, shares the history and story of the plant. After the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources took ownership of the building in spring 2014, it was required for the building to meet current state building codes. Since the building did not meet the requirements, the BHG had to close the museum until it was brought up to code. The state-owned public building underwent construction work in order for the facility to be complaint with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

"We are so excited and thankful that this is back up and running," said MaCall Tourdot, Sauk Prairie Chamber of Commerce Tourism Promotions Director.

The improvements include a ramp at the entrance of the building, a handicap restroom and electrical work. There are also new exhibit additions to the museum gallery, fresh paint on the walls, and new carpeting. The museum hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Badger History Group Archivist Verlyn Mueller set up the new exhibits, which include a flag from when Badger was under the command of Ordnance Corps during WWII and the Korean War. 

"There are a couple other relatively new exhibits that are stories that I've been telling, but I'm telling them in a different way now," Mueller added.

There is also an exhibit of professional photos of the land and buildings taken in 1999.

The establishment of the Badger Ordnance Works (Badger Army Ammunition Plant) in 1942 was the beginning of a significant cultural and economic event in the Sauk Prairie area. U.S. soldiers and allies used the products produced at the plant in three wars.

Mueller is glad to have the museum open again to continue sharing the history of Badger.

"It is an important story that needs to be told, and that's what we want to do is tell that story," Mueller said.

The BHG is a 501c3 public charity, 100 percent volunteer organization funded exclusively by membership dues and private donations. The history preservation effort will continue to be funded entirely by donations to the Badger History Group, Inc.

Visit for more information.

8. A warm welcome home

The Dane County Regional Airport once again filled with thousands of people giving a warm welcome home to a group of veterans returning from the Badger Honor Flight on April 22.

Emotions ran high as families greeted and hugged their loved ones coming home from the trip. After the plane landed, the group of World War II, Vietnam, and Korean War veterans walked down a long line of people who were eager to shake hands while thanking them for their service. "The Living Flag," made up of a group of women from the Sauk Prairie area, performed in the ceremony opening.

More than 30 family members of Vietnam veteran Lloyd Ballweg attended.

"It's going to be I think incredibly emotional to see him," his brother Ed Ballweg said as he waited for the ceremony to begin.

The trip was the second honor flight the Sauk Prairie community made possible. Through the Sauk Prairie Heroes for Honor committee's Operation Eagles' Wings campaign, the community raised more than $208,000 to fund the two flights. The first flight took off September 2016. The efforts made Sauk Prairie the first community known within the Honor Flight network to accomplish this fundraising goal in the time completed. 

During the trip, the group of about 88 veterans, with their guardians, visited the Arlington National Cemetery, WWII Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Korean War veterans Memorial and the US Air Force Memorial. 

"It was quite remarkable," said Vietnam War veteran Roger Howard of Roxbury. "The whole trip, it was very eye-opening...the welcoming from Sauk Prairie area was unbelievable."

9. Ribbon cutting marks opening of 'The Circle'

For decades, students of the Sauk Prairie High School music department have joined together in a circle to bond and focus before musical performances. It was a tradition, led by Sue Halloway and Karen Luher during their 33 years of teaching together at the school, that continues today.

Two years after Halloway passed way, more than 50 people joined together on Aug. 23 for a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of a new 16-foot diameter circular sitting area, with a design inspired by Halloway and Luher's teaching, installed near the River Arts Center entrance.

"In our program, we make circles because it brings us together, it makes us equal and it provides us a space and a home," said Sauk Prairie High School Choir Director Matt Brennan during the ceremony. "Every time we create a circle, I remind my students that 40 years of circles existed before them, and one of the beautiful things that this brings us is a place for anyone from those 40 years of circles to come and be a part of that space and be a part of that one circle that is Sauk Prairie music."

Karen Helt and Lindsey Giese, Executive Director of River Arts Inc., spearheaded the project, raising $22,000 in the community to make "The Circle," a reality.

The Circle is designed to evoke the sentiment of one of Halloway and Luher's mantras with the quote, "It's the journey...not the destination," via a path interacting with a circular sitting area. The three trees planted around the circle depict the students and two trees on the other end of the circle represent Halloway and Luher.

"Their philosophy was never about winning, it was the journey they took to get there that was more important," Helt said at the ceremony. "Thus the reason behind the winding path into and out of the circle."

Superintendent Cliff Thompson also spoke during the ribbon cutting ceremony. 

"It's so many people who treasure and honor the legacy of the arts and today is part of that," Thompson said. "In order to create a legacy, you have to have people, and a legacy can be attributed to one person or two people, but the beauty of a legacy is when it lives on and on and on, and that's what we're celebrating today."  

The ceremony included performances by Sauk Prairie High School graduates Michael Davidson, Derek Carden, and Matt Endres. They were also on a 2003 recording played during the ceremony featuring Halloway on the flute.

Landscape Architect and Sauk Prairie alumnus Nathan Anderson donated his time and talent to design The Circle. John Pahlas created a music stand sculpture piece with used instruments for the area. Hidden in the design, the piece includes the words, "Only those who see the invisible can do the impossible."

Artist Mary Dickey created mosaic art for The Circle, showing silhouettes of characters from musicals Halloway and Luher presented over their years of teaching in the district together. Matthew's Lawn and Landscaping completed a series of concrete pavers. The remaining pieces of the project are four curved benches surrounding the space.

10. Sauk City plaza and birding area approved

A temporary plaza and educational birding area will soon be new additions to the Sauk City riverfront. 

The Sauk City Village Board, at its Aug. 29 meeting, approved to create the plaza at 812 Water Street and a birding area south of the Highway 12 bridge.

Raine Gardner of MSA Professional Services and Tywana German, Sauk Prairie Chamber of Commerce executive director, presented the proposals for the final design of the projects to the board.

The projects are the first phase of multiple proposed improvement projects for the riverfront. The master plan divides the projects into four phases spanning over four years, with the last phase scheduled for completion in 2020, if approved.

The cost is $111,000 for phase one, the birding area and plaza. The estimated cost for all four phases is $962,000. Over the next three years, the Village of Sauk City will look at the proposed phases and review a funding strategy to consider the projects for approval. 

For the birding area, Creative Landscaping will remove existing vegetation, add trees and place decorative stones. Miller and Associates will provide the benches for the area, while Cole Construction will be installing concrete pads. German noted at the meeting there is no contractor for the bird educational sign because Ferry Bluff Eagle Council plans to draft the document for the Chamber.

The temporary plaza is designed to be a natural area where people can gather in downtown Sauk City. Features include a patio area with three picnic tables, a playground area and a slide. The amenities for the plaza are designed to be easily removed should a business want to develop the area in the future.

Erin Vander Weele

Veterans returned April 22 from their Badger Honor Flight trip visiting the Washington D.C. memorials. The Sauk Prairie community raised the funds to make the flight possible. Upon their arrival at the Dane County Regional Airport, a crowd gathered to welcome the group back from the flight.

The proposed phases for the upcoming years, if approved, would include completing work to build a plaza on the Hahn House property, a riverfront promenade, art spaces, and an ADA Floating Fishing Pier. The promenade, scheduled for September 2019 completion, is proposed to have a three tiered 40x60 stage area with the purpose to allow the local community to enjoy music on the riverfront.

German said they have received positive feedback from people who attended the Fire on the River event and saw the storyboards for the projects posted at the riverfront. She said vintage Brewing Company personnel look forward to the Hahn House plaza project to take shape. The business has already booked 22 weddings and people have shown interest in outdoor weddings.

"Your board's vision of just being supportive and allowing us to plan for the future with an opportunity to draw additional people in really did yield the result we were looking for," German said to the board.


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