Whitman’s Bar celebrates 51 years of their Labor Day tourist send-off

Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 7:00 PM CDT
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HAZELHURST, Wis. (WSAW) - Tourists’ sadly packed their bags and began their commute home on Monday as they finished up their Labor Day weekend holiday in the North Woods. But, they didn’t have to leave without a proper send-off from a friendly crowd at Whitman’s Bar in Hazelhurst.

The tradition began 51 years ago when six friends decided to hang out and have a good time waving at tourists as they left. Now, hundreds join in the festivities over half of a century later. The owner of Whitman’s said that this year is extra special.

“Last year we couldn’t have it. We did have some people come in but, we did not have the party and It was our 50th,” said Mary Whitman, owner.

That’s why they went all out this year. They had live music and free food for their customers and it was all provided by the owners.

“We kind of consider it a customer appreciation,” said Whitman.

She said businesses in the area can’t survive without tourist support and she enjoys when they come around.

Jordyn Thompson, co-owner of Isla Collective is also thankful for the tourists. She and her mother opened Isla together just a month ago and they’ve had a good turnout, thanks to the tourists.

“Business has been fantastic,” said Thompson.

The owner of Packerland Plus, Brian Mroteck, had a similar experience this summer and especially this weekend.

“It’s been a great weekend here in Minocqua. We had a lot of traffic. A lot of people were up,” said Mroteck.

He said his business thrived on tourism and he looks forward to busy weekends like Labor Day.

Dave Protz used to be one of the tourists that visited yearly until he moved to the area permanently. He’s been coming to the Whitman’s send-off tradition for 10 years.

“The traffic will actually be stopped. It backs up so much,” said Protz.

He really enjoyed talking with the tourists on the road when they were stuck in traffic. He also looked forward to a silly tradition, the honking. It’s a crowd favorite. There was a sign out front that read ‘Honk if you had a good time’ and as cars went past they’d wail on their horns and it would be followed by a crowd cheer.

The fun gesture meant a lot to Whitman.

“Another person is saying thank you and wishing us well and we’re wishing them well.”

The family-run business plans to carry out the tradition for many years to come.

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