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Racine County visitor spending sets record

RACINE COUNTY — Visitors to Racine County spent a record $236.7 million in 2017, according to research conducted by Tourism Economics.

The report, released for National Travel and Tourism Week which starts Sunday, showed a 3.2 percent increase in visitor spending compared with 2016. The county’s previous visitor spending record of $232.3 million was set in 2015.

The new report shows that visitor spending supported 4,025 local jobs contributing $112.1 million in personal income. Those jobs generated $27 million in state and local taxes last year.

“We’re happy and proud of setting another record for Racine County tourism spending,” stated Dave Blank, president and CEO of Real Racine, the county’s tourism bureau.

He pointed out that visitor spending includes more than tourism; it includes business travel, the money spent in the county by truckers passing through, and this year will likely be boosted by construction workers who will temporarily move in for the Foxconn Technology Group project.

On the tourism front itself, Blank said: “The addition of Racine County to the officially designated Frank Lloyd Wright Trail had a positive effect that will be felt for years to come,” he said. In 2018 the Racine area will have a full year to benefit from that designation.

“The state is promoting it pretty heavily,” he added. With two major Frank Lloyd Wright attractions here, the SC Johnson Administration Building and Wingspread, Blank said he thinks those visitors may be inclined to stay overnight.

“The local tourism industry also saw a big boost from the Antique & Classic Boat Society annual meeting and boat show held at ReefPoint Marina,” he said.

The year 2017 was more of a return to normal after major hotel remodeling projects in 2016 put many hospitality rooms out of commission, Blank said: The former Racine Marriott at 7111 Washington Ave. had a makeover and is now the Delta Hotel by Marriott Racine; and the former Harbourwalk Hotel Racine, 223 Gaslight Circle, completed a remodeling and a rebranding into the DoubleTree by Hilton Racine.

State visitor spending

According to the report, statewide visitor tourism spending hit $12.7 billion last year, a 3.2 percent increase from 2016. Tourism supported 195,255 jobs that accounted for nearly $5.4 billion in personal income.

“It’s a tremendous credit to the tourism industry in all 72 counties and the work they do to create fun vacation experiences, market their destinations and provide great customer service that makes travelers want to return to Wisconsin each year,” Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett stated.

Research shows that tourism advertising goes beyond just promoting vacations; it also positively influences the state’s overall image as a great place to live, find a job, open a business, attend college or retire, Klett added.

The Department of Tourism works with international research firms Tourism Economics and Longwoods International.

“The addition of Racine County to the officially designated Frank Lloyd Trail had a positive effect that will be felt for years to come.” Dave Blank,
Real Racine president and CEO


Liars Club bar manager Carly Hurley sports a exceptional Derby Day hat as she stands at the entrance of the Liars Club, 492 N. Pine St., on Saturday afternoon in Burlington. In conjunction with the 144th Kentucky Derby, mint juleps and big hats were the order of the day. To see more photos from the Liars Club Derby Day event, turn to Out on the Town, Page A10, or go online to

Starship Records and Collectibles opens in Downtown

RACINE — Tony Acosta, co-owner of the new Starship Records and Collectibles in Downtown, has a heckuva story about how the store got its name.

Acosta and his wife opened Starship, their second record store by that name, at 614 Sixth St. on April 21, which was Record Store Day. Their other store is at 504 Lincoln Ave., Waukesha.

Although his store is fully open, Acosta still has thousands more records to be sorted, alphabetized and put out for sale. He hadn’t planned to open this soon but said people kept rapping on his window, asking to see the merchandise, so one day he opened the front door. He sold each of his five turntables that day but one — because it was broken.

Starship had taken off, just as its name suggests.

Before they had a record store, the Acostas had a thrift shop in Waukesha, where they live. What Tony started to notice was that any time he had record albums for sale, browsers were drawn to them, and they sold well. About 12 to 13 years ago, the couple closed the thrift shop and opened a record shop. It was originally called Music, Records and Collectibles.

One day, Acosta said, something amazing occurred and led them to rename their store.

After the Acostas had relocated their Waukesha shop about five or six years ago, Tony said, “I just had that urge to come outside; I said, ‘Let’s go outside to get some air.’

“And we were talking about, ‘Let’s decide what we’re going to name it here, now that we’re in a new location.’ … I look up, and there were spaceships passing by. … And we got a video.”

“They were like the size of a car, regular car, black one,” he explained. “There were like 40 of them. During the day. … I swear to God. A lot of people think it’s not true, but I got a video with my wife in it, showing it.”

Thus the name Starship was born.

By popular request

Acosta said they decided to open a second store in Racine because so many of their customers were coming from the Racine-Kenosha area and even northern Illinois, and were asking for a closer location.

Including what is at the store but not yet sorted and on the shelves, he estimates Starship currently has roughly:

  • 40,000 to 50,000 LPs;
  • 20,000 45-rpm records;
  • 20,000 CDs;
  • 5,000 VHS videotapes, which Acosta said are increasing in popularity, and;
  • 200 reel-to-reel recordings.

And the Acostas have many more they can restock their stores with. Tony said they have more than 150,000 records, many of them in two large rental storage units.

Starship covers all musical genres: “From polka to heavy metal,” Acosta said.

Album prices range from 99 cents to $100, with most ranging from $7 to $30, he said.

Buyers of all ages

Acosta buys and sells anything (except instruments) related to music, including memorabilia and posters, figurines and so on.

Acosta said that in the past, record buyers and collectors tended to range in age from 30s to 80s.

“But now, it’s kids young as 5 years old. It’s grandpas bringing their (grandkids) to buy music. I mean, it’s amazing how young people are tuning in to buying them. All the new bands are pressing on vinyl.

“We got customers, some young kids, they don’t even listen to it,” Acosta said. “But they like the artwork. They cover their walls with the artwork.

“Other people, they buy it to invest.”

Acosta doesn’t just have a shop full of music, he’s got a headful of stories to share, like the time he paid $300 for a batch of hundreds of albums at an estate sale and wound up selling one of them — the Beatles’ infamous, initial “butcher” cover for the “Yesterday and Today” album, which was quickly withdrawn from circulation — online for $10,127.

Starship Records and Collectibles is open 1-9 p.m. seven days a week, although eventually, Acosta said, it will open at 11 a.m. daily. For more information call 262-260-8492.

CHUCK D'ACQUISTO, Journal Times file photo 

Leon Walls looks to pass as a senior guard for St. Catherine's in November 1974. In two injury-plaqued seasons for the Angels, Walls was known as a ferocious defender and he took his game to another level to St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas.

House chaplain controversy: Catholic group demands that Ryan's chief of staff resign

A Catholic organization is asking House Speaker Paul Ryan’s chief of staff to step down, alleging that he sent the House chaplain an email containing an anti-Catholic remark.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights said in a statement issued Friday that House Chaplain Rev. Patrick J. Conroy claims Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, reportedly said “Maybe it’s time we had a chaplain that wasn’t Catholic” in a letter Burks sent Conroy asking for his resignation.

“It’s time Ryan found himself a new chief of staff,” the Catholic organization’s statement said. “Anti-Catholic bigotry cannot be tolerated anywhere, and certainly not in Washington.”

On Thursday, Conroy sent House Speaker Paul Ryan a letter, which has circulated to multiple media outlets. In it, he rescinded his resignation, which Conroy tendered on April 15.

In the letter, Conroy says that he thought he had little choice but to resign after receiving Burks’ letter, which contained the alleged anti-Catholic remark.

Ryan, who is Catholic, has since accepting Conroy’s decision to rescind his resignation, which means Conroy will continue to serve as the House of Representatives chaplain.

However, the Catholic organization remains unhappy about Ryan’s handling of the incident.

Ryan’s silence problematic

Catholic League president Bill Donahue said the dangerous part of the situation is Ryan’s silence about Burks’ comments.

“Quite frankly, if Ryan would have come out with a plausible explanation that softens the charge and provides greater context, people like me would be satisfied,” Donahue said. “I understand people say things in the heat of the moment. All I am saying is the big guy (Ryan) has to speak.”

Donahue also said he is receiving criticism from people who mistakenly hold the belief that his organization serves as the Catholic arm of the Republican Party.

Donahue, who identifies politically as an Independent party member, denies that assertion. “My only interest is fighting anti-Catholicism,” Donahue said.

“It’s time Ryan found himself a new chief of staff. Anti-Catholic bigotry cannot be tolerated anywhere, and certainly not in Washington.” The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

Pablo Martinez Monsivais