A year-long, statewide showdown left Gov. Scott Walker with a smile on his face and a couple of handfuls of cheese curds from Ishnala Supper Club in his stomach recently.
Walker appeared at the legendary Wisconsin Dells-area dining establishment Aug. 31 to present the club with its first-place award in the Travel Wisconsin Supper Club Showdown.
Joining the governor during an hour-long stopover at the popular local dining location were Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett and first lady Tonette Walker, who spent the afternoon flying from Rice Lake to the Dells and from there to Mosinee to present awards to the contest’s top three vote-getters.
Ishnala garnered 152,080 votes, more than a third of the 400,000-plus votes generated by the year-long contest conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and its website, travelwisconsin.com.
The strong statewide interest generated by the contest “shows there’s a lot of love and attention for supper clubs in Wisconsin,” Walker said.
“It’s just one of those places where you make a memory, and that’s what we hope more people want to do, not only here at Ishnala but with all of our state’s supper clubs,” he said. “We have almost 250 supper clubs statewide.”
A plaque proclaiming the supper club “WINNER!” of the contest, another plaque for “Top 10 Finalist” and a proclamation by the Governor declaring Aug. 31 “Supper Club Day” throughout the state were presented to Ishnala and its owner-operator Bob Prosser. Also on hand for the occasion were state Sen. Luther Olsen and state Rep. Joan Ballweg.
Ishnala’s strong showing included a healthy representation from out-of-state voters, Walker said.
“We could track where the votes came in from Chicago and the Twin Cities, which makes a lot of sense,” he said. “Ishanala is a good draw for people to come to from other states.”
Pinewood Supper Club of Mosinee, Walker’s final stop for the supper club awards junket, finished second with 129,037 votes, and Lehman’s Supper Club and Cocktail Lounge of Rice Lake finished third with 23,713 votes.
Walker’s visit to Ishnala began just after 4 p.m., when the restaurant opens during its warm-season months of operation. He stopped to greet and pose for photos with Ishnala’s wait staff, chatted briefly with Prosser, Olsen and Ballweg as well as representatives from the Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Walker and his traveling party were led by Prosser and on a brief visit to the restaurant’s outdoor terrace and an indoor site being renovated for an additional bar area.
The governor paused along the way to take in the spectacular late-afternoon view of Mirror Lake from the Ishnala terrace, and he even snapped a few photos with his smart phone. He waved at a pair of passing canoeists, who waved back.
Following the ceremony, Walker and his traveling companions grazed briefly at a table full of appetizers from Ishnala’s kitchen, with the Governor paying most attention to the bowls of fried cheese curd bowls as he prepared to make his way to the afternoon’s final stop.
“I’ll grab a couple of these for the road,” Walker said as he headed toward the door and the next stop on the agenda. “I can eat cheese curds and ribs until I blow.”