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Chip’s Popcorn Wagon opened for the season March 27, 2017. (Photo: Shereen Siewert/Wausau Pilot & Review)

By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU – In central Wisconsin, there are a few solid signs of spring that we all know to look for. Temps begin to rise. Tulips start pushing through the ground.

But in downtown Wausau, the surest sign of spring is the appearance of a shiny red popcorn wagon on the corner of Third and Scott Streets.

Chip Winter, owner of Chip’s Popcorn Stand, popped his first official batch of the season on Monday, after rolling his iconic wagon onto the former First American Plaza and switching on the neon “open” sign. Business has been trickling in ever since.

Some, like Mary Reinke, are newcomers to the area and had never seen the stand before. But others, like 68-year-old Roland Johnson, have been stopping at the stand regularly for decades.

“You can pop all the popcorn you want at home, but for some reason it never quite tastes like the stuff you get at Chip’s,” Johnson said. “It’s always a sad day when it closes for the season.”

Winter, 72, said this marks his 21st year of business selling popcorn in downtown Wausau.

Plenty of things have changed in the two decades since Winter started selling popcorn. A few years back, he replaced the original wagon and roughly eight years ago he moved a block down from the intersection of Third and McClellan streets to corner of Third and Scott, where you’ll find him today. There are more downtown events, too, which helps business in the six month span he stays open each year.

But one thing hasn’t changed: the recipe of freshly popped corn drizzled with plenty of heavenly melted butter. If you’ve never been tempted to stop, you’re seriously missing out.

Trust me on this one.