Whether you’ve lived here your entire life, or you’re a recent transplant, you know that Wisconsin is a pretty special place. Whether it’s the many natural areas to enjoy, the world-class cultural offerings, or the delicious ethnic foods, there’s probably something that really says “Wisconsin!” for you.
Mike Beno thinks there are many things that make Wisconsin a great place to live or visit. He’s the editor of Our Wisconsin magazine , which printed its first issue earlier this year. With a paid circulation of 40,000 in its first 6 months, Beno says that Our Wisconsin is the fastest growing publication in the state.
With the publishing industry contracting overall, it may seem foolhardy to start up a new publication. But Beno and Publisher Roy Reiman are using a structure that relies on people willing to write about the places they live basically as volunteers. It’s a gamble, but so far, the response has been great Beno says that “In our first 3 months, 800 people applied to be volunteer field editors. And 900 sent photos for our first photo contest.”
And that makes sense, since people are really at the heart of what Our Wisconsin wants to accomplish. Beno says “We will surely have some fun places to talk about, but even more so the interesting people: the characters in Wisconsin. How can you not love a 95-year-old accordion player who's still performing on stage, much as he did at UW when he was 18 in the 1930s? Or Frank Kovac, who built the world's largest mechanical globe planetarium in the backwoods near rustic Monico, Wisconsin. It took him 10 years and he hand-painted 5,300 stars in their proper positions and luminosity. So many have heard about him that he had to quit his papermill job! 3,500 people a summer now drive up here to the back end of nowhere to attend his sky shows, and weather's never a problem.”
No one is getting rich on what they make for their contributions to Our Wisconsin magazine. But they may be putting on a few pounds as a result. They pay for short snippets or photos in the magazine with Amish pies that are sent out statewide by courier. Beno says “sometimes when I send a check for a full page story or photo, people tell me, ‘Thanks for the money, but you know, I was really hoping I'd get one of those pecan pies instead.’"
But a listener who identified herself as Karen from Racine had an even better idea. She writes “Here's a great idea for food gifts. Instead of pecan pies (as far as I know, pecans aren't grown in WI), how about shipping out the new State Pastry: Kringle from Racine! Delicious, easy to ship (just call O&H Bakery in Racine). Keeps good, shares with more people, no need for plates and forks. A great solution all around! Just really appropriate."
Listeners were happy to share what makes Wisconsin special for them. Here is a sampling of the comments:
On Facebook, Robert and Carolyn enthuse "Supper Clubs" have always struck us as quintessential Wisconsin landmarks; and, let's face it, no other state in the Union can match us for a Brandy Old Fashioned!"
Listener Steven carries on the food idea with his suggestion. " I think one of those things that make Wisconsin unique is the annual smelt fries. Although not as abundant as they once were, they are still around, and still as tasty as ever. These fries draw large crowds, and are great for community support functions. I am not sure of many other places that have this deep-rooted tradition in the springtime."
Beno shared a food-related “only in Wisconsin” example that’s hard to argue with. He shares that there is a drive-up cheese curd window in De Pere at the Scray Cheese Company  store. Beno says he was talking with one of the employees there, when a police squad car pulled up. “He wasn’t looking for doughnuts,” Beno explains, “he wanted curds.” The employee said that was nothing new. He’s had tractors, and even people on horseback pull up to the window.
Going back to listeners’ comments, listener Bill says, "My favorite Wisconsin place is Minoqua, especially Northern Highland Forest's Fallison Lake Trail."
And listener Katie loves Wisconsin’s "fabulous wetlands! Would love to see Our Wisconsin profile some of Wisconsin's Wetland Gems so more members of the public know about these natural treasures!"
Listener Sandi appreciates "excellent trout and salmon fishing along the Wisconsin Lake Michigan shoreline, especially in Kewaunee. Their marina is beautiful and the views of the lake and the shoreline can't be beat. There's a connection with nature watching a sunrise on the lake. There is also a marsh walk close by and a bike trail where you can ride your bike or walk and see nature at its best."
Listener Jim in Middleton says "Besides great parks, forests, rivers and lakes, infinite beautiful vistas, natural areas and esoteric nooks and crannies. Perhaps not awesome beauty - but beauty we can put our arms around. "
Caller Lynn says that Durward's Glen near the Dells is her favorite spot. Also, everything that is talked about in the current Chapter a Day  selection, "Return to Wake Robin: One Cabin in the Heyday of Northwoods Resorts"  by Marnie Mamminga, really sums up the Wisconsin experience.
Continuing even farther north, listener Bill says "One of my favorite highlights of the state, are the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. The largest of the 22 islands is Madeline Island, which I visit often. Most of the islands are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, which protects them in their beautiful natural state. Camping and recreation on the islands is very scenic and beautiful. And the Town of La Pointe on Madeline Island has a lot to offer, too."
For both Beno and Reiman, Our Wisconsin is both a labor of love, and proff that they are not very good at staying retired. Beno says “We founded this magazine to give voice to these kinds stories all across Wisconsin, and along the way, celebrate this special place. We try to provide some fun armchair reading. And we do so by urging regular people around Wisconsin to join in the conversation, explaining what makes their corner of Wisconsin so special.”