Fifty years ago, the village of Warrens celebrated its centennial.
As it turned out, the events of 1968 fundamentally shaped the Warrens of 2018.
Warrens took the first public step toward celebrating its 150th anniversary Tuesday with a sesquicentennial kickoff celebration next to the Warrens Cranberry Discovery Center. The village received a proclamation from the state Legislature delivered by state Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, and Nancy VanderMeer, R-Tomah, and speakers promoted the two-day sesquicentennial celebration set for July 3-4.
History was also part of the program. Warrens Cranberry Festival president Deanna Donaldson noted that it was leftover funds from the 1968 centennial celebration that provided the seed money for the festival, which has grown into an annual event that packs thousands of visitors into a village of just 360.
And then there’s the interchange at Interstate 94. The stretch of Interstate 94 between Tomah and Black River Falls opened Oct. 30, 1968, and Carolyn Habelman told the audience that the interchange at Hwy. EW east of the village almost didn’t get built. She said the regulations of 1968 required a gas station or other business to be within two miles of the interchange, and the nearest qualifying business was 2.2 miles away.
She said an intensive lobbying effort, which included her father who had worked for the campaign of then-Gov. Warrens Knowles, got the interchange approved.
“There were a lot of strings pulled,” Habelman said “If we didn’t get this exit, we would not be here today.”
Village president Jason Krultz said volunteerism has also sustained the community. The program included eight speakers representing different service organizations or groups that promote the Warrens area.
“How does a small community like this accomplish so much?” Krultz said. “We’re a community of volunteers. We always have been.”
The program for the July 3-4 celebration has already been announced. There will be a youth street dance and “dancing through the decades” July 3 prior to the Town of Lincoln Fire Department’s annual fireworks display.
On July 4 there will be a “walk through history display” at the log building, dancers from the Ho-Chunk nation and a pair of Timberworks Lumberback shows at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.