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Capacity Crowd Gathers For CRA/CBA Awards Banquet

Issue Date: September 30, 2020

The annual CRA/CBA (Crivitz Recreation Association and Crivitz Business Association) Banquet drew 96 members and well wishers to Renee's Dining Room on Monday, Sept. 14. They gathered review achievements of the two organizations over the past year and to recognize community leaders for their dedication and efforts, not just in 2020 but over the years.

With Covid-19 social distancing regulations in place, the crowd was near capacity for the meeting room at the supper club on County X west of Crivitz in Twin Bridge.

The opening prayer led by John Deschane, board chair for inVenture North and former Crivitz Village president, gave thanks for the gifts of waters, the lakes, rivers and streams that make the greater Crivitz area what it is, and asked for "...calmness, understanding and peace in our land."

County Board Chair John Guarisco, who also has served many years as CRA president, introduced Marinette County Economic Development and Tourism Director Jenny Short and her program assistant Autumn Rockhill.

Short said when their newly created county office became a reality just two months ago they hit the ground running. "We're getting away right at the gate," Short declared. They are working on a new printed County Guide focused on both tourism and economic development. They have attended, or plan to attend, travel shows in Marinette, Green Bay and Wausau, and to have the county represented at other shows by partnering with county businesses. They are working with the Marinette County Parks Department on other promotions and events, including the for campers only "Treats at Twin Bridge" Halloween event at Twin Bridge Park on the weekend of Oct. 2 to 4 that they hope will become an annual event to extend the camping season, and reported that most of the 63 campsites at the park are reserved. They have designed and printed a Fall Colors driving tour to lead visitors to some of the most spectacular autumn scenery and beautiful waterfalls in the county. The handout, prepared in cooperation with Parks Program Assistant Allyson Bickel, includes a map showing places to go and how to get there, and includes arrows designating spots to eat and stop for gas along the way. Directional signs have been posted as well.

The Janesville Gazette put together a Drive Wisconsin promotion that is distributed in print and on social media and will include different routes next year.

"If you have information you would like to get out, give it to me," Rockhill invited, and added, "If you want information, get it from me." She added that information is also available at therealnorth.com, and said information requests have increased 200 percent since their department opened. "You are a huge part of the tourism department," Rockhill said of the two business associations. A re-design of the county waterfalls tour and the brochure that promotes it is in progress.

Guarisco reported Crivitz Rec (CRA) went to two trade shows this summer despite the Covid-19 restrictions, and sponsored 30 ads from June 26 through July 3 during Crivitz Week on Channel 5 television that included a 20 minute show on the Crivitz area and an hour-long show on Marinette County on Friday, July 3. He said that gave exposure to 140,000 people, and due to two trade shows being cancelled, Crivitz Rec had the revenue to do the TV advertising instead.

Guarisco said the 10th edition of the Crivitz Guide has been prepared as a joint CBA/CRA venture by a committee consisting of himself, Amanda Popp, Becky Popp, and Sally Witt.

CBA officers include Amanda Popp, Sally Witt and Jessica Magerowski. Crivitz Rec officers include Guarisco, president; Becky Popp, secretary/treasurer, and directors Sally Witt, Donna Walters, Jim Orlowski, Dale Paust, Leon Popp and Jessie Milequette.

Deschane introduced Roberta Davis, marketing director for InVenture North. Davis attended school in Crivitz and after a business career elsewhere, came back to live, work and help promote economic growth in the area she loves. She described an ongoing "invent your north" promotion and outlined some of the work the inVenture North organization headed by Deschane has done recently to promote tourism and economic development in the entire area.

Ginger Deschane introduced Chloe Gruszynski, winner of the 2020 Youth of the Year award. A recent graduate of Crivitz High School who earned many academic and athletic awards, Chloe was nominated by Crivitz Elementary School Principal Kelly Robinson. Robinson said she felt Chloe deserved the award for the time she spends volunteering at various events and especially for the time she spends volunteering with students at the elementary school. "I will forever make it known how proud I am to say Chloe is from Crivitz," Deschane declared.

"I was there when he became an employee of Crivitz," State Rep. Jeff Mursau said of Mike Frievalt, the man being honored as the 2020 "Adult of the Year." Frievalt was the first Crivitz Police Chief, and Mursau is a former Crivitz Village President. Mursau said often when a young officer is hired they work a few years and move on to larger communities, "but Mike stuck around forever and became an important part of our community."

Deschane, also a former Crivitz Village President, declared Frievalt always told him you must put family first, "and Crivitz was his family and he always put Crivitz first." Deschane, in something of a mini-roast, also made some joking remarks about the "Crivitz Gestapo" back in 1979, and how Frievalt had "mellowed" and drew praise from village employees, visitors and residents.

Frievalt was 24 when he was hired as Crivitz' first police chief and organized the first Crivitz Police Department. He retired last year for health reasons and currently serves on the School Board. "I admit at the start, it probably was Gestapo-like," Frievalt said of starting the new police department. "I could write a book about my experiences in Crivitz, and I wouldn't change a thing."

There were 50 candidates for the job when Bob Berndt was hired by Crivitz School District in 1975. He had accepted the job, and then got a better job offer. His mother made him keep his word and stay with the job at Crivitz for at least a year. During his tenure as Crivitz Band Director he built up the faltering band of 22 members. The Crivitz administrator's main concern was if he could make the band sound like they were playing the National Anthem. He built up that struggling little band to where it included a full one third of the student body and became the envy of the country. He led the Crivitz Band to the Rose Bowl, the Gator Bowl, to performances in Boston, New York and elsewhere.

When he started in Crivitz, Berndt traveled to Milwaukee every Friday and Saturday night for his "full-time job," playing with the "Peace With Grease" band.

Deschane said an impressive percentage of the students Berndt worked with went on to careers in education.

Berndt eventually left Crivitz to become Administrator for Pembine School District, and then in preparation for retiring, he transferred his enthusiasm to Wausaukee, where he mentored John's son, Jared Deschane, who now is Superintendent at Wausaukee. "His greatest strength is his ability to interact with people," Deschane said of Berndt.

Berndt, in his acceptance speech, was pleased to announce that among the famiy members present for his award was a daughter who had come from California for the event.

"You'll be successful in life, guaranteed," Berndt declared when congratulating Chloe Gruszynski on receiving the 2020 Youth of the Year Award.

Berndt said the Crivitz Business Association was the reason he stayed in Crivitz back then, and the Crivitz area business people are the reason I'm still here. He had particular thanks for numerous people, including the Crivitz Music Boosters, Tom White, Kris Heidewald, Sally Witt, Ginger Deschane, John Deschane and more. Of Sally Witt, Berndt declared, "She donated so much time to make me look better"I love her dearly!" He also thanked his wife, Edie, "who brought a balance to my life," and said he loves her too.

Ginger Deschane then introduced the playground committee consisting of Rebecca Witt Zillges, Megan Mayhew, Ocean Sikowski, Kelly Robinson, Tom White, Lynelle Caine, Rachel Zietlow, and Jenny Gehm, who she had nominated for special recognition for their hard work in fundraising, designing, and building the new wheelchair accessible elementary school playground. Deschane said they managed to get grants, do fund raising events and convince the school board to finance a $165,000 playground at the elementary school. Deschane said she has foster kids that are handicapped and they love playing there.

Tom White, Director of Buildings and Grounds for the Crivitz School District, accepted on behalf of the committee, and had some high praise for Crivitz PTO and the work they put in. Lynelle Caine spoke of $100,000 from the school district to spend on the playground but coming up short for some of the things they wanted to put in it, so they applied for grants and held fund raisers. They sponsored a "Dueling Pianos" event as a fund raiser, and Rick and Renee Oastler, owners of Renee's Dining Room, allowed them to hold it there. They got grants from Piggly Wiggly and Ace Hardware, the Stock Foundation, Witt Ford, M&M Community Foundation and more. Kids sold candied apples and committee members sold cookbooks and more.

The Wishing Well collecting playground funds is still located at Witt's Piggly Wiggly, and money donated now will go for future improvements at the playground.

Rick Oastler, who with wife Renee owns and operates Renee's dining room, introduced Tony Van Laanen, owner/operator of 2020 Business of the Year award winner, Tony's Dockside Bar and Grill. Van Laanen purchased Dockside approximately four years ago and since that time has held events each month to raise money for local causes such as the Crivitz Food Pantry, Coats4kids, Wolverine Sports Boosters, Twin Bridge Fire Department, and many others. Oastler declared VanLaanen is very involved in the entire community, and whenever someone wants a fund raiser, he says, "Come on up and we'll do that."

VanLaanen said Rick and Renee Oastler have been his mentors since he purchased his business, and credited his mother, Judy (Van) Degeneffe and his employees for making things work. "Any stupid idea I get, my employees and my Mom say, "Let's do this!' and it gets done," he declared.


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