PBS shows history of Stevens Point
By Gene Kemmeter
STEVENS POINT – Wisconsin PBS will present a history of Stevens Point at 8 p.m. Oct. 25, in the newest installment of its continuing local history project, “Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Stevens Point.”
The show can be viewed on WHRM, Channel 20, in Wausau. It will also be available for free-on-demand viewing at wisconsinhometownstories.org and one the free PBS App on streaming services and Smart TVs.
The program tells the story of a city shaped by its distinctive geography and natural resources in central Wisconsin. The documentary will also be available for free on-demand streaming online at WisconsinHometownStories.org and on the free PBS App on streaming devices and Smart TVs.
The program starts with the Menominee people who collected resources in the “Tension Zone,” an S-shaped area that stretches across Wisconsin from northwest to southeast. That transitional zone divides the state between two ecological regions, the Northern Mixed Forest and the Southern Broadleaf Forest.
The northern region is closely related to the forests of northeastern Minnesota, northern Michigan, southern Ontario and New England, while the southern region is like forests in Ohio and Indiana. The Tension Zone contains plants and animals found in both of those regions.
Stevens Point’s history relates stories of diversified industries, innovation and cultural history by focusing on sections titled “Early History,” “Little Poland,” “Brewed to Perfection,” “Reinvention,” “Fly-Tying Capital,” “Irrigation Revolution” and “Green Circle City.”
Holly De Ruyter, producer of the program, said Stevens Point’s location in the center of the state makes it unique, providing access to all of the state’s resources. “It’s really a diverse area with a lot going on,” she said. “You’ve got farming, you have woods, and you have the river. Being in the heart of Wisconsin, you kind of get the best of all worlds in that area.”
De Ruyter said she was also surprised by the diverse economy in Stevens Point throughout its history, starting off as a lumber town and then switching to other industries once the bulk of timber in the area was cut. The city has book publishing, insurance firms, a university, paper making and other businesses, she said.
The program doesn’t include the total history of the city and surrounding area, she said, acknowledging she learned about other stories but just couldn’t work them into the program.
The “Hometown Stories” series attempts to give people a sense of each city or county and what it’s like to live there and what the community is like, De Ruyter said.
The chapter about the Green Circle tells the story about people coming together and wanting to work on something to better their community and make it a better place to live says a lot, she said.
“People look to give their time and talent to better the city and it shows, and you feel it, too,” she said.