The spotlight will shine on Pattison State Park this year as the natural area that encompasses both big and little Manitou Falls turns 100. The centennial celebration kicks off with Winterfest Jan. 25 and will last throughout 2020.

“This is going to be a very big year,” said property supervisor Kevin Feind.

Park events will feature activities designed to attract people with a wide range of interests, from an arts and crafts show to the 5K Rivet Run, a golf scramble to a Voyageur encampment.

“I’m trying to incorporate history into all the events,” Feind said.

The June event, for example, will be an old-fashioned picnic with yard games like a three-legged race, croquet, a gunny sack race and a bean bag tournament. Feind plans to add panels detailing the history of each game.

About 250 people attended last year’s Winterfest at Pattison Park. Feind would like to see that number double. It kicks off with a formal dedication ceremony at 3 p.m. on Jan. 25, followed by a candlelight ski/hike, sledding and craft activities for youngsters. The Friends of Pattison and Amnicon Falls State Parks will host a snowshoe race in the picnic area and provide chili, hot chocolate, coffee and cookies.

“The Douglas County Historical Society has been tapped to research the park’s history for a display during Winterfest. The Superior Telegram reported the state’s formal acceptance of the 660-acre parcel on Jan. 17, 1920. Martin Pattison, who died in December 1918, wasn’t alive to see it.

The process to purchase land and donate it to the state can be traced back to December 1917, according to Historical Society Business Manager Jon Winter. Pattison had logged the area decades before and wanted to protect it from possible dam construction, so he quietly started purchasing land.

“He didn’t want to see the falls destroyed," Winter said.

The South End Commercial Club was looking at doing something similar to protect the falls area, according to Telegram archives, but Pattison asked them to keep quiet about it until he could get all the land.

That’s only a piece of the park's.

From 1936-1940, the Civilian Conservation Corps poured hundreds of thousands of hours into public works projects at the site. In addition to erecting buildings still in use today, they created the island, re-routed the streambed and built a bridge that made it through the Father’s Day flood in 2018 with no damage.

“You look at the man hours just to build that building, the main shelter — 100,000 man hours,” Feind said. “And here were are, 80 years later, enjoying what they did. Those blood, sweat and tears are still being enjoyed by hundreds and hundreds of visitors every year.”

Fundraising will also be built into this year’s centennial events. The Friends of Pattison and Amnicon Falls State Parks will be raising money for a new, CCC-inspired gazebo between the shelter building and the lake.

Each celebration will have opportunities for people to donate. In addition, the Friends group will be selling inscribed brick pavers for the sidewalk leading out to the gazebo — $100 for a 4-by-8-inch block, $200 for an 8-by-8.

“We have so many people that have deep roots of multiple generations coming to see the park,” Feind said. “That could be their way of supporting the park in a long-term kind of thing.”

The group hopes to raise $60,000 for the new gazebo. If extra money is raised, the park will put in an accessible camper cabin. Feind has received permission from the state for both projects.

Pavers can be purchased at the park office and through a website that should be up by the end of January. More information is available on the Friends Facebook page or by calling 715-399-3111.

2020 events

  • January 25: Winterfest
  • June 20: Good Ol’ Family Picnic
  • July 11: 4-Person Best Ball Scramble at Pattison Golf Course
  • July 12: Rivet Run 5k run/hike
  • September 5-7: Voyager Encampment
  • September 26-27: Centennial Art and Crafts Show
  • November 15: Rivet Run 5k Centennial Rap-Up