The Vernon County Dairy Promotion presented its 2017 “Restaurant of the Year” and “Friend of the Dairy Industry” awards at the annual Vernon County Dairy Gala held in Viroqua on Thursday, Oct. 19, at the Viroqua VFW. The Dairy Gala is a joint venture sponsored by the Vernon County Dairy Promotion Committee and the Vernon County Cooperative Association.
2017 Dairy Industry Restaurant of the Year
Rocky’s Supper Club
Three generations of the Rocky’s Supper Club were on hand for the 2017 Dairy Gala, Rocky’s has been a family owned and operated restaurant since April 1, 1972.
Located on Hwy. 35 in the village of Stoddard the restaurant is entering its 46th year in business. Positioned along the Great River Road they draw a wide array of customers from across the Coulee Region and are open Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 5 p.m.
Customer favorites at the restaurant include: Rocky’s original batter fried cheese curds, Friday fish fry, mouth-watering prime rib and its “one of a kind” bleu cheese fish.
For the past 32 years, Rocky’s Supper Club has been the “Top in Sales” during La Crosse River Fest serving over two tons of cheese curds to hungry customers who line up annually for the deep fried treasure.
“That’s a lot of cheese,” Business owner, Jaynne Lepke said.
In a typical week Rocky’s uses plenty of dairy products including 100 pounds of cheese curds, 15-20 pounds of butter, 25 pounds of cheese, 5 gallons of ice cream, and 6-8 gallons of its homemade bleu cheese dressing.
Over its 45 years in business, Lepke and her entire family truly appreciate the hard working farming community, as well as all the dedicated employees and loyal customers for making Rocky’s Supper Club a successful, friendly place to enjoy quality food and drink.
Rocky’s is a proud supporter of the dairy industry and extremely grateful to have received this special recognition.
2017 Friend of the Dairy Industry
When the Vernon County Dairy Promotion Committee was nominating people for the 2017 award one name gained unanimous support, Tim Rehbein was selected for his support and enthusiasm for the dairy industry and agriculture in general.
Rehbein was born in Manitowoc to the late Donald and Wilma Rehbein. One of eight siblings, Tim jokes, that after his mother gave birth to four girls she changed doctors and then gave birth to four boys. He is the oldest of the male children and they were all raised on a dairy farm.
He graduated from Mishicot High School and was active in the FFA where he won numerous awards. After high school he attended UW-Madison earning a degree in Agriculture Education. While interning at Hillsboro High School he was introduced to and fell in love with the Driftless Region of Wisconsin and began seeking employment in the area.
He spent decades as the Vernon County Ag Agent (February 1982 to June 1985 and March 1989 through 2014). He took a break from the position during which time he earned his Master’s Degree in Meat Animal Science at UW-Madison in 1987 and when the position in Vernon County reopened, Rehbein was rehired.
During his break as the Vernon County Ag Agent he married Judy Ostrem in 1985. The couple were blessed with three children, Micah (Devin) Voss graduated from UW-La Crosse and teaches at Coon Valley Elementary School; Bailey graduated from UW-Stout, with a degree in food science and works at a small USDA inspected meat plant in Elmwood; and Sylas, currently a junior at UW-Stout he is majoring in mechanical engineering.
Rehbein has many fond memories of his time as the county ag agent including learning the art of raising tobacco and eventually how to spit it out, not swallow it, during tobacco spitting contests.
He always enjoyed the All Breeds Dairyman banquet; the twilight meetings for Holstein, Guernsey and Jersey breeders and the ever-popular and labor intensive dairy breakfasts.
One of his greatest accomplishments and one that is still growing today and as fruitful as ever was the introduction of grape growing in Vernon County. The venture did not come without its share of challenges, but Rehbein said he is sure more cheese has been sold with wine over the years, than chewing tobacco ever will.
“Cheese and wine just go better together,” Rehbein said.
When Rehbein left his opposition as the county ag agent he remained connected to agriculture working at Driftless Meats between Westby and Viroqua. Unfortunately in 2016, Rehbein was severely injured while on the job and is still in recovery today.
“I thank God that I am still alive,” Rehbein said, “God kept me alive to heal so that is what my full time job is right now. It’s been a very slow process, but with the amazing support of my family and friends it makes every day worth the fight.”
Vernon County Cooperative Association
The Vernon County Cooperative Association presented its 2017 “Friends of the Cooperative” awards at the event. This year’s recipients were Orlan and Denise Bakkum of Westby and Kevin and Julie Larson of Viroqua. Their bios were published earlier in the Westby Times and Vernon County Broadcaster.
The Vernon County Fair Association also presented its 2017 Dairy Youth Awards to area 4-H participants at the Dairy Gala. Approximately 135 people attended the event which highlights the importance of the dairy industry and the effectiveness of member-owned cooperatives to the economic strength of an area.
Wine samples for the Dairy Gala were furnished by Vernon Vineyards and Branches Winery and sponsored by the Vernon County Cooperative Association. Cheese trays were provided by Westby Cooperative Creamery and Organic Valley and crackers were donated by the Viroqua Food Cooperative. The meal was catered by the Viroqua VFW.