Wisconsin Ain’t No Flyover State

“Wisconsin. That’s in Michigan, right?”

Once, on my family’s annual family vacation to New Hampshire, a kid asked me where I was from. I of course responded with, Wisconsin. Without skipping a beat, he responded, that’s in Michigan, right? I never forgot the disgust I felt that someone my age (11) had no idea where Wisconsin was located. Didn’t they have social studies classes in New England? Aren’t you required to locate all the fifty states on a map at least once in your childhood? Have you not watched a single episode of Schoolhouse Rock?

They don't even serve this where you're from.

Fast forward 17 years and I’m sure that boy now has a clear idea of where Wisconsin is located. I doubt he’s ever visited, because after all, what coastie would be caught dead hanging out in a flyover state?

Consider this article, “Just Tossing Around the Old Bag of Corn” that appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago. The article goes into detail about how New Yorkers are really getting into a game that we’ve been playing around these parts for decades. It’s how I imagine Columbus’s reports of the New World would have sounded to the people that he “discovered.” Dude, we’ve been saying the same thing for centuries. You didn’t discover cornhole, we did.

This is still "the beach."

My favorite is a recent post written by Wisconsin to New York transplant Megan L. Wood in The Awl called, “It’s Cute That New York is Catching Up to Wisconsin.” It expresses similar thoughts on how people in New York are now just discovering “new trends” that Wisconsinites have been setting for years.

It’s time to set the record straight. Wisconsin ain’t no flyover state, it is the real deal. You know you love us and secretly wish that you could be more like us. It’s time to put an end to that ridiculous nickname and realize that things that happen in Wisconsin are as relevant as things that happen on the coasts. Sometimes, even more so.

Since 1844!

If you still need convincing that Wisconsin ain’t all that, then I’d like to ask you a few questions. First of all, has your state been brewing Pabst Blue Ribbon since before it was an official state? Did Laura Ingalls Wilder grow up in a log cabin deep in the woods of your state which served as the inspiration for her Little House on the Prairie series which later became a hit television series starring Michael Landon? Were duck boat tours started in your state? Is America’s Largest Water Park in your neck of the woods? How many publicly owned sports teams does your state have? Can you buy alcohol on Sundays? Was America’s first kindergarten in your home state? Does your state deep fry everything and then serve it with a side of cheese? Can you host a tailgate party at all of your local sports venues? Does your state have this many breweries? When President Obama wishes us all a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays this year from the White House, will he do so against the backdrop of the White House Christmas tree, cut from the forests of your state?

Oh and did your state do this?

Wisconsin “Budget Repair Bill” Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

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When You’re An Adult, You Get to Do Kid Things

I still can’t believe it’s been a solid month since I left on vacation with my sister and dad to return to our beloved family camp on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire after an eight year hiatus.  Post-college, it seems like time passes a whole lot faster and so I’m still in disbelief that a month has already passed between now and then (my partially still-packed suitcase can attest to this.  Sorry, Mom).  I’m still trying to get over the fact that I moved away from Boston over a year ago and that I can’t really use “Well, I just recently returned to the area” for an excuse for anything anymore.  

One of the best parts about returning to Lake Winnipesaukee was picking up where I had left off with old friends, eight years later.  Last time we had been at camp together, we couldn’t even buy our own booze.  Gone were the days of relying on older siblings/friends to pick us up a case of Sublimes and nonchalantly shoving them into duffel bags. 

Another highlight of returning to our camp on Lake Winnipesaukee  is seeing all the familiar landmarks.  There are the actual landmarks on the grounds, such as the ice cream store, the beach, our special hidden beach, the barn, the White Mountains, and all of our secret pathways.  Then there are the landmarks along the highway.  The McDonald’s at the edge of a hill, JoJo’s Country store, and Funspot.   

Funspot touts itself as the World’s Largest Arcade.  The kind of place where kids beg, plead, and bargain with their parents to take them and parents pretend they don’t hear their children’s cries of “Please take us to Funspot! Can we go to Funspot?!” 

Even as twenty-somethings, my friends and I still possessed a deep yearning for someone to please take us to Funspot.  We wanted to experience the world’s largest arcade and we wanted the prizes to prove our adventures.  One rainy evening, towards the end of the week, it dawned on us that we had the power within us all along to take ourselves to Funspot. 

Take ourselves to Funspot we did and we experienced the depths of the world’s largest arcade.  First, we bowled with adult beverages (but not in the actual alley, thanks to New Hampshire state law).  Then, we turned our twenty-dollar bills into coins and played as much Skeeball as we possibly could manage.  Another treat was the archaic arcade games area which allowed us to play Duck Hunt and other old school Mario Brothers games, and the original Pac-Man.  Unfortunately, some of the machines hadn’t been repaired since their glory days, so coins were lost. 

One of the unlikely favorite machines of the night was the ticket dispenser.  We put our stacks and stacks of tickets into the machine which would count all the tickets and spit out a receipt with our ticket count.  The anticipation of how high that number was so exciting that we found ourselves chanting, “Machine! Machine! Machine!” in hopes that it would give us a high count of tickets. 

"Machine! Machine! Machine!"

 

After our tickets were counted, we found ourselves in Prizeland.  Talk about tough decision-making.  What on earth could we possibly get with all of our tickets? Should we get a souvenir pint glass? A stuffed animal? Candy? Googly-eyed rings? Swedish fish? Bracelets? Should we spring for a large prize or settle on handfuls of small prizes? We opted for the handfuls of small prizes that way everyone could leave with something.

When we returned to the camp with all of our prize rings, souvenir Funspot pint glasses, bracelets, and a little bounce in our step, a young child could not help but notice all of our new loot.  Her curiosity leading the way, she asked us, “Where did you get all of these things?” 

My dear friend replied, “Why, we won them at Funspot.”  Her eyes widened at the mention of the sacred arcade. 

“You went to Funspot?!  No fair!” Many people know of Funspot, few have actually set foot in there.  Especially kids without their parents. 

“Well you see,” my friend began.  “When you’re an adult, you get to do kid things.”  Dumbfounded, she bumbled off to bed as we went to enjoy our Swedish fish under the stars.