Finding affordable family fun can be a challenge, but in Osceola, it’s as easy as A, B, C.
A non-profit theater and art gallery housed in an authentic early 20th century barn, the St. Croix ArtBarn fosters artists, actors, writers, musicians, and dancers of all ages. Stop in and see a show or become a participant in one of the ArtBarn’s classes ranging from comedy to canvas painting.
For just $2 per person or $5 for the whole family, you can experience a slice of Americana at Oakey Park, home of the Osceola Braves semi-pro baseball team. All the ballpark’s favorite snacks are at the concession stand—salted peanuts in the shell ($2.50), fresh popped popcorn ($1), hot dogs ($2), Wisconsin brats ($3), burgers ($3.50) and beer ($2-$3)—making it easy to have an unforgettable day of baseball without paying stadium prices.
Wisconsin’s oldest state park is a stone’s throw from Osceola. Interstate Park offers tent, RV, and handicapped accessible camping and boasts activities and recreation like world class hiking past glacial potholes, the Gorge of the Dalles and rugged wilderness, a swimming beach on Lake ‘o the Dalles, and the Ice Age Interpretive Center.
When you board the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway, it’s like stepping back in time. The fully-restored 1916 SOO Line Depot displays vestiges of the past and hosts historic passenger cars powered by vintage locomotive engines that travel through the rugged countryside along the St. Croix River. Fares vary by excursion, but kids two and under are always free.
ENTER A RACE
In May, the Minnesota Mountain Bike Race Series kicks off with The Woolly Mountain Bike Race featuring several competition levels, including a free kids’ race, along groomed bike trails through the wooded terrain of the St. Croix Valley. The Rustic Road Fun Run in early June includes a 5K walk/run or a 10K run and a free kids’ race on paved roadways with beautiful scenery. July brings the Polk County Rockin’ Youth Triathlon which encourages kids of all ages and abilities to explore their athletic sides in swimming, running, and bicycling. Car enthusiasts will enjoy putting their automobiles to the test on Osceola Airport’s runway during the Wheels and Wings Radar Run in September.
FISH FOR TROUT
The beautiful grounds and picnic areas at Star Prairie Trout Farm make it an ideal spot for beginning anglers and young children. All you need to bring is a cooler for your catch: no license required and all fishing gear is provided, with only a small charge ($3) for live bait. Fees are assessed based on the weight of the trout you bring home and they will even clean and cut them for you. More experienced fisher-families might want to try Mill Pond Park or Osceola Creek which are both stocked annually with trout. If trout’s not your game, try one of these other Polk County Fishing hotspots.
GEIGER BREWERY PARK
The perfect place for a picnic, the one-acre Geiger Brewery Park is nestled at the base of a bluff and a freshwater stream gurgles through it. A historical marker commemorates the spot where Geiger Brewery once stood from 1867-1878.
A weekend visit to the Osceola State Fish Hatchery offers something old and something new. Most of the hatchery buildings were built in 1934, with the exception of one small stone storage building which dates back to 1894. The impressive 300,000 rainbow trout, on the other hand, are only kept for 17 months before finding new homes across Wisconsin as part of a state-wide stocking program. Call ahead to schedule your free, self-guided tour.
From soft-serve to slow-churned, you can lick your cold craving in downtown Osceola with a frozen treat from Dairy Queen or an old-fashioned ice cream while you shop for antiques at The Looking Glass or have pizza @ Thiel's American Pie.
JAMBOREES & FESTIVALS
Osceola is a fun place to come together. The first weekend in June brings Rhubarb Days, which centers around yummy rhubarb creations and includes a variety of fun for all ages and interests. Wheels & Wings draws a crowd in early September with its airshow, car show, radar run, and craft bazaar. On the same weekend in September, the Osceola Community Fair comes to town, featuring classic carnival staples like farm exhibits, amusement rides, live music, and fair food. Then the Osceola Community Bazaar is great to visit to unwind, find some cool crafts and sip on some wine in beautiful Mill Pond Park.
KAYAK, CANOE OR PADDLEBOARD
Awe-inspiring paddles await on the St. Croix River. A popular trip, from Interstate Park to Osceola Landing takes you through interesting basalt formations, flood plains, natural shorelines, sandstone and limestone bluffs and more. Rentals at Riverwood Canoe and Kayak include free parking and a shuttle to and from their Osceola location, allowing you to have a full day of family fun for $35 or less.
With so many ways to enjoy Osceola’s lakes, you can easily spend a whole day at just one of our six area bodies of water. Swim, fish, canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or boat on Big Lake, Cedar Lake, Lotus Lake, Horse Lake, or Sand Lake.
MOVIES UNDER THE STARS
What could be better than a family movie night? A free family movie night in the open air. Movies Under the Stars play at Mill Pond Park at dusk and concessions are available for purchase. Don’t forget your lawn chairs or picnic blanket!
Standing Cedars Community Land Conservancy preserves 1,800 acres along the St. Croix River. The diverse ecosystems that converge here make it ideal for hiking, birdwatching, and plant identification. Be on the lookout for the rare kittentails, a threatened plant species that can be found in the Buffalo Skull area of the preserve. Osceola Bedrock Glades preserves a large forest of scrappy trees and plant life growing out of rare exposed basalt bedrock. The vegetation persists despite minimal soil and water.
Osceola Landing is your starting point for adventure on the St. Croix River. Embark on your water craft journey from the paved boat launch and parking area, lounge on the sandy beach, take a dip in the river, or grill out at one of the picnic shelters. Located on Osceola Road/MN State Highway 242, the landing is part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and is managed by the National Park Service.
PRESERVE AMERICA COMMUNITY
Osceola is one of just eleven communities in Wisconsin to receive the distinction of a Preserve America Community. Its unique blend of historical and natural preservation and economic progression are evident in the Osceola Commercial Historic District which has been reinvigorated with businesses and shops that meet the needs of today’s community and historical tourist hotspots like Cascade Falls, the renovated Mill pond, and the 1916 train depot. All can be seen on foot on our Historic Village Walk. See if you can spot the oldest historical building in the district (1874) and the newest (1947).
Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life? The small, rivertown of Osceola has a relaxing vibe and a meditative journey through the woods is always just steps away on our many trails that head right off the main street. On a rainy day, the library is a peaceful sanctuary with an events calendar packed with kid-friendly activities.
The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway includes 252 miles of protected river and adjacent lands. The stretch through Osceola is a sight to behold. Hike atop tall limestone bluffs overlooking the river and its wild forest embankments below. The views are equally stunning from a boat, canoe, or kayak on the cool, clean water walled by cliffs and towering trees. Camping and fishing are favorite pastimes on the river for both locals and tourists.
There’s no better way to escape summer heat than a dip in cool water. Thanks to ancient glaciers, Osceola has several of nature’s swimming pools: the beach at Osceola Landing on the St. Croix River is a local favorite or try one of six nearby lakes, including Lotus Lake which has an adjacent park. For a more controlled water experience, look to the Osceola High School Aquatic Center or the pool at River Valley Inn which both offer open swimming for a reasonable fee.
You’ll discover waterfalls, springs, forestland, prairies, bluffs, a covered bridge, and wildlife on the more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails in the Osceola area. The St. Croix Valley is a mecca for mountain bikers with its diverse terrain and scenic beauty along groomed and natural bike trails. Bird lovers love our birding trails, too. Our unique location along a heavily traveled migratory highway with varied habitats facilitates flocks of flying fowl.
At community-supported, family-owned Demulling Farm, playing in the dirt is encouraged! When you pick your own strawberries, you not only create lasting family memories, but you get more bang for your buck—U-pick strawberries are typically much cheaper than supermarket prices and are oh so tasty!
Whether it’s the river valley, the waterfalls, the bluffs, the natural landscape or historic buildings, the sights of Osceola are worth the trip. All of these sensations and more can be viewed in one walking trip through our Walkable Community.
A set of steps marked by a statue of Chief Osceola leads down to Cascade Falls, a 25-foot high waterfall in the heart of downtown Osceola. Above, the smaller Geiger Falls tumbles its way to Osceola Creek, helping to feed Cascade Falls below. At night, the falls are lit with color-changing LED lights.
Up for a little friendly competition? Sweat it out together on the RCU Sport Court at Wild River Fitness. The outdoor, fenced-in court is lit in the evenings and outfitted for basketball, tennis, pickle ball, badminton, volleyball, and shuffleboard. The court is free to use and equipment can be borrowed inside the fitness center at no charge.
Osceola is full of affordable and delicious dining options. From family-owned farm-to-table cafes to a canoe-themed restaurant to places to pop in to prepare a picnic, the food scene here has a wide variety of family-friendly fare. The Osceola Farmer’s Market has all the fresh ingredients you need for whole food cooking when you return home. And there are plenty of places to grab some picnic food and find some of the greatest spots to throw a blanket and enjoy.
Thrill seeking families will love an aerial tour of the woodlands just outside of Osceola. Trollhaugen’s Zip Line Park includes six different zips and over 3,000 feet of line with a peak height of 50 feet in the air! Reservations are recommended.
An Individual who has consistently demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to advance the vitality and well-being of the community throughout the years.
Pete’s memory and love for Osceola goes back to when he was student at the country school on County Road M. One of the biggest treats Pete and his friends had then was to come to the big town of Osceola. If Pete had been a good boy, he might even get a dime to go see a movie at the Star Theater while his parents shopped at Kochs or Gambles and perhaps enjoyed an adult beverage at PYs or the Cascade. As a kid Pete also remembers going to Braves baseball games and chasing foul balls just as kids do today.
Pete graduated Osceola High School in 1956 and became a forever Chieftain. Pete married Diane (the love of his life) in 1961. Their three children and now two grandchildren also call Osceola High School their alma mater.
Pete’s has worn many hats in his life. He has been: transportation director for the Osceola School District; owner/operator of the Pizza Cellar and Mainstreeter Café in downtown Osceola (with Diane); school board member for Osceola Schools; 8th grade football coach for Osceola and videographer for Chieftain football games.
Do you see a pattern here? Yes, most of his activities include working with the Osceola community and Osceola students.
Pete sums it up perfectly: “We had a great town in the 40s. We have a great town today. Gambles may be gone but now we have Bill’s Ace Hardware. Kochs may be gone but now we have Dick’s Fresh Market. Prosper Young is gone but now we have Steve Johnson. Town stores change, owners change, buildings change. What makes Osceola special is HEART and that has never changed.”
Business of the Year
Individuals have conducted their business in such a way as to distinguish themselves in an extraordinary way and to make a significant contribution to the community.
On November 15th, 1950, Miss Beatrice Engh, an Osceola High School teacher, submitted the winning name of “Trollhaugen” to the local ski area and won $10.00. In 1967, two practicing dentists from St. Paul, MN purchased Trollhaugen and hired 17-year-old James Stephen Rochford (better known as JR). Working summers and weekends, JR learned the ski business inside and out. Trollhaugen celebrated its 50th year in business in 2017 and is now known as one of the most distinguished ski/snowboard areas in the Midwest. JR estimates that over 4.5 million people have enjoyed Trollhaugen’s various ventures since 1950.
Many changes have occurred over the years: updates to buildings, lifts, and offices and new construction of a snowtubing facility, convention center, summer zip Lines and the largest aerial challenge course in the Upper Midwest. Trollhaugen has also hosted the Memorial Mud Run for 50 years.
Trollhaugen employs over 400 seasonal staff each year, many of which are first jobs for local high schoolers. Several employees have stayed for 30 years. The business offers heavily discounted lesson programs to all 5th grade school classes that visit. Trollhaugen donates over $50,000 in lift tickets to charitable organizations each season and partners with Courage Kenny to host weekly ski outings in January and February for participants with disabilities and special needs. The Rochford family has donated the property where the Dresser Fire Station is located.
We celebrate 50 years of business with the Rochford family and thank you heartily for your contributions to our communities. Best wishes for your next 50 years as well!
Non-Profit of the Year
Organization that shows outstanding support for the Greater Osceola area through contributions and support of the community.
Wild River Fitness
Wild River Fitness is part of Osceola’s health care campus which includes the medical center, senior housing and a public fitness trail. The fitness center is complete with a full line of state-of-the-art cardio, strength and free-weight fitness equipment, as well as separate group exercise rooms for fitness classes. Classes and services are provided for all age groups. Scholarships are available for members who need financial assistance.
The center was established in 2003 by a group of local fitness enthusiasts and the YMCA of Greater St Paul. The Osceola Medical Center took over operations and Wild River Fitness opened its doors in a new 16,000 square foot facility in February 2012.
Most of their 30+ staff consists of volunteers.
Wild River’s philosophy is “success is simple, really: healthy living, healthy lifestyles, healthy community.”
Thank you, Wild River Fitness and Osceola Community Health Foundation for your dedication to promoting healthy lifestyles in our community.
Community Partner of the Year
An Osceola Area Chamber business or organization that demonstrates excellence in collaboration to improve the economic vitality of the community through leadership, sponsorships, volunteerism, and partnering with other organizations and/or businesses.
PY’s Saloon, Steve Johnson, Owner
“Third places” are everyday gathering places that are the anchors of community life. Great downtowns have great third places. They are welcoming and comfortable…a place to congregate apart from home or work. PY’s has grown into our third place in downtown Osceola. At any given day of the week, many different groups can be found here planning events, holding meetings, hosting meat raffles or just enjoying each other’s company over a beer. Thank you, Steve and staff for making us feel at home in your establishment. Your support of the Osceola Lions Club, Osceola Braves Baseball, the Grow Osceola group and all sorts of meat raffles is greatly appreciated. PY’s also helped host the 2017 Valley Brew Fest whose proceeds benefit the trails in Osceola.
Not only do we appreciate PY’s as a community partner, but Ding celebrated 35 years in business in 2017- we congratulate you and commend you on this milestone accomplishment!
Above and Beyond
An individual who supports and reinforces the values of the Chamber and exhibits a high level of commitment, initiative, leadership, cooperation, and dedication- going above and beyond expectations.
Marcia received last year’s Osceola Chamber Ambassador of the Year Award for her dedication to the chamber’s social media program and she continues her work in this area. She has served on the Osceola Public Library Board of Directors since 2009. In addition to her duties on the board, she volunteers for the library’s signature event, Rhubarb Days. Marcia is a founding member of the Mill Pond Learning Foundation whose inaugural project has been the Inspire Campaign for the Discovery Center which will become the new home for the Osceola Public Library. She currently serves as communications co-chair on the Inspire Campaign’s Cabinet. Marcia also serves as secretary for both the library board and the learning foundation. Her day job is head media specialist for Osceola Schools.
Rising Star Business
Relatively new "up and coming" small businesses with a unique blend of vision, energy and skill. It is for ventures that have had a strong start with the potential for growing into a prosperous enterprise and have demonstrated a strong contribution to the future of the community.
Krista Timm, Jessica Robinson, Danielle Larson, Alexa Stokes
Co-owners of Style Escape
These ladies are definitely A TEAM. They had been running individual businesses for years but last year the owners joined forces and are now known as “Style Escape.” Krista and Jessica had worked together previously, then a connection with Danielle was made and two years ago, Alexa (who is Krista’s daughter) was ready to join the team.
The group moved into a storefront downtown and were up and running in two weeks. They feel their most important business tool is open communication. With demanding business and family schedules, the team implemented an online booking app so they can see each other’s schedules and make adjustments as a team to make sure their customers are taken care of.
Style Escape is a full-service beauty salon with an inventory of many wonderful clothes, jewelry, gifts and organic beauty products. Plans are to add an acupuncturist, make-up services and spa packages soon.
Excellence in Customer Service
An Individual or business with outstanding customer service based on -first impressions, attitude, helpfulness, exceling above and beyond service expectations and promoting other businesses in the area. Awarded throughout 2017 were: Dick’s Fresh Market, Watershed Cafe, Cascade Bar, Noah Insurance and Osceola Public Works.
Watershed has a wonderful staff that is a talented and hardworking team. Rita and Steve are a blessing to our community. They take special care in training in customer service and feel especially dedicated to knowing how important that first job experience at Watershed is for our young people. They value the connections with their customers in a special way through how you are greeted at the door when you walk in to the quality of the food they bring in, how it is prepared and how it is served. Congratulations to all the staff and Rita & Steve for the warm and friendly atmosphere you have created and in setting the bar for Outstanding Customer Service in Osceola.
Building of the Year
Nominees in this category are the physical building that house successful businesses, including new construction as well as buildings which have undergone major remodeling or refurbishment in 2017 making the building an attribute to the community.
Dick’s Fresh Market
After 10 years of planning, the recent expansion and remodeling of Dick’s Fresh Market in downtown Osceola has won them the 2017 Osceola Building of the Year award. The store has been family-owned and operated for over 30 years.
The primary motivation for owner, Doug Rinehart, was to make his facility an even better store for his customers.
The list of improvements includes: a new deli and bakery; Caribou Coffee; Beer Cave; the remodeling allows for an increased inventory of organic, natural and gluten-free foods; offices; rest rooms; and employee break room; updated exterior and redesigned parking lot.
The store renovation has also created jobs with 16 new employees for Caribou Coffee and another 15 new employees for the grocery store. Downtown Osceola has seen an increase of traffic as the store’s customer base has expanded.
Thank you, Dick’s, for appreciating our small town and investing in our future.
Outstanding Senior Citizen of the Year
Individual who stays active in our community after reaching the age of 70 with volunteerism and outstanding commitment to community service.
Rev. Richard Kretzschmar
Richard grew up on a family farm near St. Louis, Michigan. He earned advanced degrees in chemistry, biology, botany and divinity. While in Tennessee attending seminary college, he met and fell in love with Norma Christopherson from Osceola, WI. They were married in 1960.
The family lived in Missouri, Minnesota, Kansas and Iowa where Richard served in various ministry capacities. They moved to Osceola in 2001 and in retirement, Richard has constantly kept himself busy in the community. He loves to share his hobbies with anyone who wants to learn.
Richard considers himself a Bee Evangelist and is known as the Public Honey Bee Swarm Catcher. Many have started keeping bees under Richard’s direction and he teaches elementary school children about the benefits of bees for their honey and pollination. He shares and sells his honey to the community.
Richard has also taught about wild edible plants through adult education classes and leading field trips with Boy Scouts.
Another hobby is wine making.
Richard is also the one to ask if you want to know about genealogy. He has been a volunteer interpreter at the Osceola Library and is a former President of the Polk County Genealogy Society.
And last but certainly not least, Richard serves as a pastoral care pastor for the Osceola United Methodist Church.
Team of authors contribute. Germaine Ross, Chamber Director, Nancy Beck, Board Member.