I never realized how much more northern Wisconsin was than Ohio. I don’t mean how much farther north it is on a map; that I knew. What I mean is that I didn’t realize how much more northern the culture in Wisconsin would seem than it does where I’m from in Ohio. From winter events like the sturgeon spearing on Lake Winnebago to weekend getaways in the northwoods, the northern nature of Wisconsin just seems so much more pervasive.
I recently moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, from around a half an hour south of Youngstown, Ohio, about halfway down Ohio’s eastern side, right on the Pennsylvania border. Growing up in Ohio, I was never really sure what region we were generally considered to be a part of. In some ways, my home area seemed very Midwestern, and in others, very Northeastern. Regardless of which of those two ways we categorized it, I think we always considered it fairly “northern.” Ohio is, afterall, on the Canadian border, even if that border runs through the middle of Lake Erie.
To be fair, Ohio is geographically further south than Wisconsin, obviously. Also, although I have known since probably elementary school where Wisconsin was located in the U.S., I did not necessarily realize that Green Bay is at a more northern latitude than Toronto, Canada, and Pierre and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and is at almost the same latitude as Minneapolis, Minnesota. Still, it’s not the geographical latitude or the climate of Wisconsin that’s surprisingly northern to me; it’s the culture.
To me, Wisconsin seems to have a northernness in it’s blood that Ohio doesn’t seem to have. Now, before some Ohio snowmobile fan or cross-country skier gets all worked up, let me ask that you please accept that I’m talking about the general nature of the populations of each state and specifically of the areas of Wisconsin and Ohio with which I’ve mentioned that I’ve had experience. I don’t doubt for a minute that you or your cousin Clem from Defiance, Ohio, is just as northern as any Wisconsinite. As a general culture, though, the Ohioans I have known just don’t seem as northern, or at least not in the same way.