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Header: Jess Anderson in Madison Wisconsin
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Wisconsin: A Lovely State To Be In
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Wisconsin is great! We go back a long way together. I think the upper Midwest is geographically about the best place in the whole country to live. Some of this probably comes from my childhood experiences -- I spent part of several summer vacations visiting my aunt, uncle and two cousins in various southern Wisconsin towns. The summer weather was so much nicer than in Peoria, my home town, and of course kids evaluate things mostly in terms of the fun they can have. In that connection Wisconsin was loads more fun than Illinois!

The outdoor resources here are stupendous. We love tourists, who drop about $30 billion a year here, but of course we love them best when they're somewhere else in the state. A lot of tourists crowd themselves into our three most popular state parks, where they set up fully-furnished suburban lives in a camper or a hotel on wheels, with televisions and the whole nine yards. You better believe the daddies get more of a vacation than the mommies!

The locals go to the other state parks, of which there are many, with excellent facilities for camping, trail hiking, and all kinds of other recreation. County parks are common and uncommonly good. We like outdoor life in this state, that's for sure. Being outdoors, enjoying the land, especially forests and prairies, is enormously invigorating for me. I love the many wonderful things cities provide, but forced to choose, I would rather be outdoors in a place like Wisconsin.

I'm no great fan of hunting, nor have I ever been thrilled by the idea of fishing, but everybody else within reach of Wisconsin seems to be big on those things, so we take in bushels of money on licenses for those sports. Now that wolves have been reintroduced into Wisconsin (and seem to be doing pretty well), maybe a few deer will be taken by them as food, rather than by people as trophies. I have to admit, though, that in 1995, two of the best meals I had -- no, three -- involved venison. Coyotes are making a big comeback too. Whereas wolves are found only in the huge northern forests of the state, coyotes are seen statewide, occasionally right in towns, including Madison. In the summer of 1998, there was a reported sighting of a mountain lion about 30 miles north of Madison, but I never learned if it was confirmed and it seems highly doubtful to me.

Wisconsin is not the capital of high-quality restaurant eating, nor (as concerns wine) good drinking. You can find good food in the larger cities, to be sure, but in the state's second largest city there are only a few fine restaurants.

The regional food, on the other hand, is special. We have two really good things here: bratwurst and beer. The good beer comes from microbreweries that are popping up everywhere, and the best brats come from a town on Lake Michigan called Sheboygan. Sauerkraut is a required condiment on brats, in my opinion.

For what it's worth (millions, to the Ocean Spray company), Wisconsin (not Massachusetts) is the nation's number one producer of cranberries.

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