RHINELANDER—(WAOW) An undeniable sign of the infamous Hodag monster has appeared in Rhinelander. Different from the grainy photographs or embellished first-hand accounts of the past, today this monster's impact comes in dollars and cents.
Tourism accounts for a large percentage of the economic prosperity of the Northwoods. Having a city mascot like the Hodag brands Rhinelander and connects businesses dependent on visitors. That keeps the city's name top-of-mind to people looking to spend time and money.
Though the Hodag creature is not real, its ability to attract tourists is. The legend plays a large role in keeping Rhinelander a destination location for families in search of a fun time in a nice place.
"Visitors are always stopping by saying we heard about the Hodag, we had to stop by" Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lara Reed told Newsline 9.
The chamber proudly displays a large grinning statue of the Hodag in its front yard at 450 West Kemp Street in Rhinelander.
Reed said this summer two motorcyclists stopped by the Chamber of Commerce after seeing an "I saw the Hodag in Rhinelander, Wisconsin" bumper sticker in southeastern Wisconsin.
That was all they needed to catch their interest and make the trip north.
Depicted in a drawing published in 1893, word of a horrific monster lurking in the woods spread quickly. The stories, started by Eugene Shepard, grew in intrigue when the logger claimed he captured the creature. Displaying it in a dimly-lit habitat, he tried but failed to keep the ruse of it being a real animal alive.
Eventually the hoax was uncovered but the legend of this beast did not go away. Today you can find Hodag stuffed animals, collectible figurines, removable tattoos and even a line of children's books about the misunderstood monster.
Rhinelander has five unique Hodag statues lining the city streets painted by community members. The statues adorn the beast with everything from a lesson in Rhinelander history to a Green Bay Packers jersey.
To celebrate this year's Hodags on Parade, Rhinelander is auctioning off the hodag statue sitting on Brown Street. Tickets can be purchased at the Chamber of Commerce. It's one more example of how the legend of the Hodag has been warmly welcomed into the fabric of the community.
According to Reed, that sense of community won't change anytime soon. "The town got behind the fun of it all and we've kind of carried that on here in Rhinelander" she said.
Online Reporter Rob Duns (WAOW)