Saving the Penokees, One Festival at a Time
Emma St. Aubin
estau255@uwsp.edu
 
What better way to celebrate the end of yet another school year than a day filled with eclectic live music and local food and drink for a costly price of nada?
 
The Save the Penokee Springfest raised awareness of the effects of mining in northern Wisconsin, particularly the potential mine in the Penokee Mountains near Mellon, WI.
 
The 12-hour-long festival was held last Saturday on the large and open green space at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point Student Recreation Fields.
 
For those who don’t know what the Penokee mine is, it is a proposed iron mine to be built in the Penokee Hills. This could threaten a 40-mile stretch of continuous forest home to 71 miles of rivers and streams that flow through the proposed mining area and empty into the Bad River, which flows into Lake Superior, containing 72 rare and endangered plants and animals.
 
Progressive Republican candidate Arthur Kohl-Riggs attended Spring Fest and
spoke about many issues Wisconsin faces today. Photo by Rachel Hanson.
The mine would also be constructed of a 300 megawatt power plant to provide for the energy needs of the plant, using coal, which would emit extremely high levels of pollution and could further harm the area.
 
Local communities would be directly impacted by the effect of the mine on the Penokee Range and rivers as it provides tourism and outdoor recreation for canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
 
"A recent bill was turned down regarding the construction of the mine, which sparked the interest to raise awareness," said Adam Greuel, one of the co-directors of the Springfest who organized the festival.
 
Many large research companies are still interested in the mine, and by raising awareness on campus individuals were able to understand the possible issues regarding the mining.
 
"We held the event so that next time the issues come up politically we will have a better understanding of the dangers of our decisions," Greuel said.
 
Among the many spectators, junior Jeff Hyma was initially drawn to the Springfest for its 12-hour music lineup, showcasing many student bands from bluegrass and reggae to folk and funk rock.
(above) Green Tea including members Trevor Roark (right), John Coletta (center),
John Julka (left) and Zach Hubert (back) perform at Spring Fest.
(below) The Giving Tree Band was the final performance of the night, pictured is
Erick Norman, keyboardist and mandolin player.​
"Other than the music, it was free! I mean unless you have a great excuse to not make it, such as ‘Oh, that’s the day of my colonoscopy!’ or ‘Ahh jeez that’s when my brother is getting married in Bora Bora and I’m the best man!’ Those are good excuses to miss this, but anything else just won’t fly," Hyma said. "Everywhere you turned people had just giant smiles on their faces. It wasn’t put on by some corporate hot shots, the whole thing was put on by some local kids who like to play music."
 
Yes, most of us are here to get an education. But admit it, our idea of a relaxing and fun-filled day doesn’t usually include learning. However, the festival provided students with a fun afternoon while learning a lot in the process as speakers such as Tom Barrett and Arthur Kohl-Riggs talked about the social and environmental issues of mining in northern Wisconsin, along with a few words regarding solutions to the problem.
 
"Seeing as how there is such political turmoil in the state it was nice to hear these people speak without having to drive down to Madison," Hyma said.
 
Throughout the course of the day, an estimated 500 to 1,000 people attended the festival.
 
"Festivals like that shouldn’t be a one-time thing because there was too much love going on there to not have it spread more," Hyma said.