Courier Press December 14, 2016

By Correne Martin **
Courier Press December 14, 2016
Lucky the Carp has become quite the superstar fish in the Prairie du Chien community, so much so that he’s the bright-eyed, smiling face of the annual Carp Fest. He’s a world-famous, friendly symbol of the river, of fun times with family and friends, and of good fortune for the coming year. 2015 is the 15th year of this annual winter festival in Prairie du Chien. “Time flies when we’re having fun,” said Tom Nelson, co-coordinator who, along with his wife Cathie, had the original idea that started Carp Fest. “Here we are in the Midwest, with an outdoor activity, at midnight, and we’re celebrating an iconic carp. That’s the uniqueness of it, and that kissing Lucky signifies bringing luck in the new year.” “It’s hard to figure out a way in the middle of winter to get people outside,” Prairie du Chien Parks and Recreation Director Mike Ulrich added. “The partiers come out for this but also the families. It’s a lot of fun.” Carp Fest provides so much distinctive amusement that “Travel Wisconsin” magazine has recognized it as one of three “Quirky Festivals”  worth attending in the state this time of year. “They obviously felt we were good enough to be on their statewide front page,” Ulrich said. Of course, it all began 15 years ago with the Droppin’ of the Carp, an idea spun from the many other New Year’s Eve celebrations across the nation. Then, six or seven years ago, Ulrich approached Nelson about making the carp drop into more of a holiday celebration, and Nelson agreed. “Without the evolvement of Carp Fest, the Droppin’ of the Carp wouldn’t be what it is today,” Nelson commented. “The activities that lead up to it really highlight it.” In its 15th year, a few new things are in store for event-goers. The Early Bird Droppin’ of the Carp Party is one such affair on New Year’s Eve, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Hoffman Hall, with the first drop of the night happening at 8:30. “I wondered what we could do for people who don’t like to be out in the cold,” Ulrich explained. “It’s also a place where people who go to bed early can come and see the new Lucky. We’ll have food, games and music.” Certainly, those who attend the early bird festivities are also encouraged to stay up past midnight and take part in the activities at Lucky Park.
At the formal carp drop, there will be snowmobile rides provided by the Cliffhangers Snowmobile Club (if there is snow) and a pyrotechnics show and huge bonfire, as usual. Carp samples will be available for tasting as well.
Around 2,500 to 3,500 people are expected to fill up the park, spilling out into the streets, around midnight for the official Droppin’ of the Carp. Alongside the Nelsons and Ulrich, Carpmaster Shawn Redman will lead the festivities alongside King and Queen Kenny and Jan Meyer. Mayor Dave Hemmer will be there and, likely, some governmental dignitaries.
In addition to the fun the night of the carp drop, Carp Fest actually kicks off on Saturday, Dec. 26, with youth ice fishing fun and snowmobile rides (if there’s snow/ice) from 9 to 11 a.m. at Washington Street Park. A low-cost family open gym and swim will be offered at Hoffman Hall, from 1 to 4 p.m. (Saturday through Thursday). Then, from 4 to 6 p.m., there will be a lit trail/sledding hill and bonfire at La Riviere Park—rain (snow) or shine.
On Sunday, Dec. 27, there will be a disc golf tournament at 10 a.m. at St. Feriole Island. All are welcome to participate. On Monday, Dec. 28, a euchre tournament is open to the public, from 1 to 4 p.m., at city hall. “A lot of people show up for euchre. Last year, we brought in extra tables. We give cash and prizes,” Ulrich said.
On Tuesday, Dec. 29, a bowling party will highlight the day, from noon to 3 p.m. at Leisure Time Sports Bar and Bowl. The bowling alley is usually packed for this family-oriented activity.
Wrapping up the week will be the Early Bird Droppin’ of the Carp Party, beginning at 6:30, and the official Droppin’ of the Carp at midnight. A New Year’s Day Rotary Breakfast will cap the festival from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Huckleberry’s Restaurant.
“It’s all a small town Midwest ploy,” Nelson said of the entire festival. “It’s not the big crystal ball in New York City. It is quirky. It is out of the ordinary. The fish represents the river and it’s obviously a tourist attraction.”
So bring your friends and family and come together with the rest of the community for New Year’s and this year’s Carp Fest. A kiss or not, may Lucky bring you the best of luck for 2016.

Carp Fest and the Droppin’ of the Carp!

December 20th, 2014 by Corey A. Edwards, Driftless Wisconsin

Prairie du Chien's Carp Fest and the Droppin' of the Carp 2015Hard as it may be to believe, 2014 is all but gone – which, here in the Driftless Region, can mean only one thing: Carp Fest and the Droppin’ of the Carp!
We all know about the big crystal ball that drops in New York’s Times Square but, in Wisconsin’s Prairie du Chien, it’s the Droppin’ of the Carp and Carp Fest that folks wait for to mark the end of their year.
A carp? They drop a carp?
Yep: starting at 11:59 on New Year’s Eve, a whole, frozen, gussied-up, 20 to 30 pound carp named “Lucky” is slowly lowered by crane onto its throne for Prairie du Chien’s Droppin’ of the Carp countdown.
Okay but … a carp?
Prairie du Chien is along the Mississippi River and, as such, its economy benefits from the fishing industry, so a carp makes some sense. Also, many cultures – primarily Asian but why split hairs? – revere the carp as a symbol of prosperity and good luck, which also explains the name “Lucky.”. So dropping a carp is a lot less random than it may seem.
No, really.
After Lucky ascends from the heights at midnight to settle regally on its throne in the first second of New Year’s Day, folks looking for luck, fun, or just a touch of “ick,” line up and await their turn to plant a kiss on the dead fish. A kiss that, like one placed on the Blarney Stone in Ireland, is said to impart luck upon the kisser, if not the kissee (as their luck has clearly already run its full course).
Lucky isn’t yucky, though, having been cleaned, posed, and bedecked for the festivities, so maybe a kiss isn’t such a hard thing to administer to its cold, lifeless lips. You go ahead, I’ll just watch from over here …
And after the festivities? What becomes of “Lucky the Carp?”
They use a new carp at every year’s Carp Fest, the one from the year before having been interred beneath a newly planted tree in the aptly named “Lucky Park.”
Of course, Carp Fest is not just the Droppin’ of the Carp but rather, a separate, related, month-long event. All manner of festivities, contests, and events make up Carp Fest. Both it and the Droppin’ of the Carp ceremony attracts thousands of people to the Driftless region and Prairie du Chien each year. So many, in fact, that the claim is that this modest, Driftless Region town doubles its population during the festival – and that’s no carp.
For more information, pictures, and a schedule of events, please be sure to visit and the Carp

Philadelphia News - More than a Ball Drops in U.S. New Year Celebrations

adaynewThe world is familiar with the traditional drop of a glittering glass ball in New York City’s Times Square before a million-person crowd. Other items dropped to welcome the new year by other cities and towns across the United States are not nearly as well-known.

Consider Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Since 2001, residents have lowered a partially frozen, locally caught dead carp nicknamed “Lucky” that weighs between 11 and 13.5 kilograms. “The Droppin’ of the Carp” is the highlight of the city’s Carp Fest as the new year begins. After the drop, revelers can go up and kiss Lucky to capture good luck for the new year.

Other objects Americans choose to watch drop instead of the Times Square ball include a crab (Easton, Maryland), a pickle (Mt. Olive, North Carolina), and a giant tortilla chip (Tempe, Arizona).

Dropping of the Carp is New Year's Eve highlight of Prairie du Chien's annual Carp Fest*



PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, Wis. — Mike Valley's wood shop offered a comfortable retreat from the single-digit temperatures and biting wind that howled from the west across the Mississippi River.

Heated by a hulking wood stove, this is where Valley uses white pine and white cedar, power and hand tools, and small brushes to carve and paint spectacular decoys of mallard, merganser and canvasback ducks along with other waterfowl that frequent the nearby backwaters and sloughs.

Valley's work — which fills his Valley Fish and Cheese store and what used to be the back porch of his home next door— can sell for $250 to more than $800 depending on the detail.

So it was quite a contrast when, just minutes before on a stainless steel work counter in his fish-cleaning building, Valley was using cardboard and clothespins to ready the star, at least in these parts, of New Year's Eve. A clear coat of varnish, a smidgen of rouge and a smear of red lipstick will be applied later to Lucky, a 20-pound, 9-ounce yellow carp.

"It's just a regular carp," said Valley, who netted the fish in November. "You want one that ain't all beat up. You want her to be presentable."

This New Year's Eve marks the 13th annual Carp Fest and Dropping of the Carp in this historic river town of about 6,000 people. But Lucky isn't dropped. She's lowered by a crane into a wooden cradle on St. Feriole Island, where hundreds line up to kiss her frozen lips for good luck.

That's why Valley is so particular. He uses the clothespins and cardboard to position Lucky's partially thawed fins so they stand out as large as possible. Lucky is then hung back in Valley's freezer and a few days before New Year's, the clothespins and cardboard are removed and the varnish and makeup applied. After the event, it's back to the freezer until May 1 when she becomes fertilizer for a newly planted maple tree in Lucky Park.

The event started when locals Tom and Cathie Nelson saw a peach dropped at New Year's Eve in Atlanta and thought they could do something similar here. The first event attracted a few hundred but now a couple thousand attend. The week includes bowling, ice skating, ice fishing, bonfires, cross-country skiing, disc golf and a Euchre tournament. For those who can get up on New Year's Day, the Rotary Club puts on a breakfast.

The king and queen, Ken and Jan Meyer, are repeats from last year, said Mike Ulrich, parks and recreation director for the city.

"They made robes and have been in parades and at Octoberfest," Ulrich told the Wisconsin State Journal ( "We really struck it rich when they wanted to be the ambassadors of this."

But Lucky and the Meyers aren't the only stars. Valley is about to get his own shot at notoriety in the form of a reality television show scheduled to air this spring on Discovery Channel and tentatively titled "American River Rendezvous."

A Montana-based production company spent several months this year following Valley and his fishing partner, Brooks Niedziejko, as they traversed the Mississippi River netting yellow and buffalo carp, sheephead, catfish, bullhead and even dog fish, prized for their caviar, that turns black when salted and which can fetch $75 per pound retail in St. Louis and Chicago.

Filming started in May and required 50 hours of work for each 12 minutes used in the show's six episodes. The series also follows a guy who traps hogs and commercial fishes in South Carolina, another who works the Yukon River in Alaska and a commercial fisherman in southern Louisiana who also hunts alligators.

Valley's goal is simply to promote his business as a way to attract more tourists to the area.

"We miss 99 percent of the people that come through Prairie du Chien," Valley said. "They have no idea we're even here."

The same used to be said for gold prospectors "Dakota" Fred Hurt and Parker Schnabel and American Pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz. The gang from Duck Dynasty, known to duck hunters for years because of their duck calls, now have their faces on floor mats, bath towels, coffee mugs, T-shirts, books, furniture and even an $8,500 camouflaged Segway.

A Mike Valley bobblehead may be a few years off but if the ratings work, the production company will be back again this summer to collect footage for 12 to 18 more episodes. Valley signed a five-year contract for the show.

"It's scripted but it's not scripted to where it's not real. It's just how they want certain things done," Valley said. "It has to be real, or I'm not doing it."

A fun-filled event intent on bringing friends, family, and community together for the New Year! Proceeds going to Dropping the Carp Fund and City Park and Recreation Youth Enrichment/Hoffman Hall Activities.
Additional Information: Contact Prairie du Chien Tourist Info 1-800-732-1673 (