Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States, in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin is the 23rd state by total area and the 20th most populous. The state capital is Madison, and its largest city is Milwaukee, which is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan. The state comprises 72 counties.
Wisconsin's geography is diverse, with the Northern Highland and Western Upland along with a part of the Central Plain occupying the western part of the state and lowlands stretching to the shore of Lake Michigan. Wisconsin is second to Michigan in the length of its Great Lakes coastline.
Wisconsin is known as "America's Dairyland" because it is one of the nation's leading dairy producers, particularly famous for cheese. Manufacturing, especially paper products, information technology (IT), and tourism are also major contributors to the state's economy.
The word Wisconsin originates from the name given to the Wisconsin River by one of the Algonquian-speaking American Indian groups living in the region at the time of European contact. French explorer Jacques Marquette was the first European to reach the Wisconsin River, arriving in 1673 and calling the river Meskousing in his journal. This spelling was later corrupted to Ouisconsin by other French explorers, and over time this became the French name for both the Wisconsin River and the surrounding lands. English speakers anglicized the spelling to its modern form when they began to arrive in greater numbers during the early 19th century. The current spelling was made official by the legislature of Wisconsin Territory in 1845.
The Algonquian word for Wisconsin and its original meaning have both grown obscure. Interpretations vary, but most implicate the river and the red sandstone that lines its banks. One leading theory holds that the name originated from the Miami word Meskonsing, meaning "it lies red," a reference to the setting of the Wisconsin River as it flows through the reddish sandstone of the Wisconsin Dells. Other theories include claims that the name originated from one of a variety of Ojibwa words meaning "red stone place," "where the waters gather," or "great rock."
The percentage of Wisconsin residents who belong to various affiliations are Christian 81%, Protestant 50%, Roman Catholic 29%, Mormon 0.5%, Jewish 0.5%, Muslim 0.5%, Buddhist 0.5%, Hindu 0.5% and the unaffiliated at 15%.
Christianity is the predominant religion of Wisconsin. As of 2008, the three largest denominational groups in Wisconsin were Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Mainline Protestant. As of 2010, the Catholic Church had the highest number of adherents in Wisconsin (at 1,425,523), followed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with 414,326 members, and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod with 223,279 adherents. TheWisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which has the fourth highest numbers of adherents in Wisconsin, and the international conference it belongs to, the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, both have their headquarters in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
As of 2008, the non-religious population of Wisconsin is 850,000.
Circle Sanctuary, based in southwestern Wisconsin, is one of the largest Wiccan churches in the country.
Wisconsin produces about a quarter of America's cheese, leading the nation in cheese production. It is second in milk production, after California, and third in per-capita milk production, behind California and Vermont. Wisconsin is second in butter production, producing about one-quarter of the nation's butter. The state ranks first nationally in the production of corn for silage, cranberries ginseng, and snap beans for processing. It grows over half the national crop of cranberries. and 97% of the nation's ginseng. Wisconsin is also a leading producer of oats, potatoes, carrots, tart cherries, maple syrup, and sweet corn for processing. The significance of the state's agricultural production is exemplified by the depiction of a Holstein cow, an ear of corn, and a wheel of cheese on Wisconsin's state quarter design.
A large part of the state's manufacturing sector includes commercial food processing, including well-known brands such as Oscar Mayer, Tombstone frozen pizza, Johnsonville brats, andUsinger's sausage. Kraft Foods alone employs over 5,000 people in the state. Milwaukee is a major producer of beer and was formerly headquarters for Miller Brewing Company — the nation's second-largest brewer – until it merged with Coors Brewing Company. Formerly, Schlitz, Blatz, and Pabst were cornerstone breweries in Milwaukee.
Wisconsin is home to a very large and diversified manufacturing economy, with special focus on transportation and capital equipment. Major Wisconsin companies in these categories include the Kohler Company; Mercury Marine; Rockwell Automation; Johnson Controls; Seagrave Fire Apparatus; Pierce Manufacturing (fire apparatus); John Deere;Briggs & Stratton; Miller Electric; Milwaukee Electric Tool Company; Caterpillar Inc.; Joy Global; The Manitowoc Company; Modine Manufacturing; Reliance Controls; Ladish Co.;Oshkosh Truck; Harley-Davidson; Case IH; S. C. Johnson & Son; Ashley Furniture; Ariens;and Evinrude Outboard Motors.
Tourism is a major industry in Wisconsin – the state's third largest, according to the Department of Tourism. Tourist destinations such as the House on the Rock near Spring Green, Circus World Museum in Baraboo, and The Dells of the Wisconsin River draw thousands of visitors annually, and festivals such as Summerfest and the EAA Oshkosh Airshow draw international attention, along with hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Given the large number of lakes and rivers in the state, water recreation is very popular.
The distinctive Door Peninsula, which extends off the eastern coast of the state, contains one of the state's tourist destinations, Door County. Door County is a popular destination for boaters because of the large number of natural harbors, bays, and ports on the Green Bay and Lake Michigan side of the peninsula that forms the county. The area draws hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly to its quaint villages, seasonal cherry picking, and fish boils.
Wisconsin, along with Minnesota and Michigan, was among the Midwestern leaders in the emergent American state university movement following the Civil War in the United States. By the start of the 20th century, education in the state advocated the "Wisconsin Idea", which emphasized service to the people of the state. The "Wisconsin Idea" exemplified the Progressive movement within colleges and universities at the time.
Today, public post-secondary education in Wisconsin includes both the 26-campus University of Wisconsin System, with the flagship university University of Wisconsin–Madison, and the 16-campus Wisconsin Technical College System. Private colleges and universities include Beloit College, Cardinal Stritch University, Carroll University, Carthage College, Concordia University Wisconsin, Edgewood College, Lakeland College, Lawrence University, Marquette University, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Ripon College,St. Norbert College, and others.
Residents of Wisconsin are referred to as Wisconsinites. The traditional prominence of references to dairy farming and cheesemaking in Wisconsin's rural economy (the state's license plates have read "America's Dairyland" since 1940) have led to the nickname (sometimes used pejoratively among non-residents) of "cheeseheads" and to the creation of "cheesehead hats" made of yellow foam in the shape of a wedge of cheese.
Numerous ethnic festivals are held throughout Wisconsin to celebrate the heritage of its citizens. Such festivals include Summerfest, Oktoberfest,Polish Fest, Festa Italiana, Irish Fest, Bastille Days, Syttende Mai (Norwegian Constitution Day), Brat(wurst) Days in Sheboygan, Polka Days, Cheese Days in Monroe and Mequon, African World Festival, Indian Summer, Arab Fest, and many others.
Drinking has long been considered a significant part of Wisconsin culture, and the state ranks at or near the top of national measures of per-capita alcohol consumption, consumption of alcohol per state, and proportion of drinkers. Consumption per-capita per-event, however, ranks low among the nation; number of events (number of times alcohol is involved) is significantly higher or highest, but consumption at each event smaller, marking Wisconsin's consumption as frequent and moderate. Factors such as cultural identification with the state's heritage of German immigration, the longstanding presence of major breweries in Milwaukee, and a cold climate are often associated with the prevalence of drinking in Wisconsin.
In Wisconsin, the legal drinking age is 21, except when accompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse who is at least 21 years old. Age requirements are waived for possessing alcohol when employed by a brewer, brewpub, beer and/or liquor wholesaler, or producer of alcohol fuel. The minimum legal age to purchase alcohol is 21, with no exceptions. Wisconsin is the only state that treats a first offense drunk driving (OWI) as a traffic violation and not a misdemeanor. It also has a zero tolerance policy for driving under 21, with 0.0 blood alcohol the only non-citable alcohol level.
The state legislature, reluctant to lower a DUI offense from BAC 0.10 to 0.08, did so only as a result of federal government pressure. The Wisconsin Tavern League opposes raising the alcoholic beverage tax. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series "Wasted in Wisconsin" examined this situation.
The varied landscape of Wisconsin makes the state a popular vacation destination for outdoor recreation. Winter events include skiing, ice fishing and snowmobile derbies. Wisconsin is situated on two Great Lakes and has many inland lakes of varied size; the state contains 11,188 square miles (28,980 km2) of water, more than all but three other states - Alaska,Michigan, and Florida.
Outdoor activities are popular in Wisconsin, especially hunting and fishing. One of the most prevalent game animals is the whitetail deer. Each year in Wisconsin, well over 600,000 deer hunting licenses are sold. In 2008, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources projected the pre-hunt deer population to be between 1.5 and 1.7 million.