Setting Up Restrooms Along Rustic North Woods Paths

Wisconsin’s premier equestrian trail-riding event poses some logistical challenges for the PROs at Schoenike Septic & Toilet Rentals.

Setting Up Restrooms Along Rustic North Woods Paths

Horse riders use a PolyJohn Enterprises restroom set up along the Caroline Lions Colorama trail. (Photo by Jacob Schoenike)

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Dave and Julie Schoenike are the owners of Schoenike Septic & Toilet Rentals in Shawano, Wisconsin, operating the business from their 9-acre property. He works in the field while she handles paperwork and office functions. Josh Moesch and Jed Schuettpelz work part time for them, as do the Schoenikes’ two sons, Jacob, 20, and Lucas, 17.


Dave Schoenike started helping a friend install septic systems. When the friend said he was thinking of getting a septic truck, Schoenike gave a surprising response. “I said, ‘I’ll buy one, and then you don’t have to,’” he says. That was in 1999. After a couple years, he added portable restrooms and quickly picked up accounts with the county fairgrounds and the local American Indian-run casino for their large music events, doubling his inventory the first year from 24 to 50 units. Today he has 250 units and half his income is derived from portable restrooms — and about half of that business is event work. He serves a 40-mile radius.


In 2017, Schoenike marked 16 years’ service to the Caroline Lions Colorama. He bid on it the first year and says he’s gotten the contract every year since because the Lions have been satisfied. “The Caroline Lions bend over backward to make sure everybody is happy, so in turn, we do the same,” he says, whether it’s dealing with inclement weather, difficult people, or challenging terrain. And if there’s any problem during the event — something needs fixing or a unit blows over — he responds immediately. “When they call, they know we’ll be there within a half hour.”


For 29 years, just as fall colors are at their peak, equestrians from Wisconsin, neighboring states, and Canadian provinces have gathered in Caroline, Wisconsin, to participate in Colorama, the state’s largest trail ride and camping event, sponsored by the Caroline Lions Club. In 2017, the town of 270 welcomed over 4,000 visitors — and their horses — the weekend of Sept. 29 through Oct. 1. Eleven fields surrounding the town were organized into campgrounds with a total of 960 campsites. In total, 1,085 riders participated in Saturday’s all-day trail ride and 745 on Sunday. Other activities for the fundraising event included live music, horseshoe and beanbag tournaments, wagon rides, a parade, and an auction. All proceeds went to support the Lions’ many charitable undertakings, including a camp for blind children, equipment for cancer and fire victims, and holiday community-support activities.


The company brought in 119 standard units (24 from Five Peaks, and the rest from PolyJohn Enterprises), one wheelchair-accessible unit (PolyJohn Enterprises), and two hand-wash stations (PolyJohn Enterprises and T.S.F.). Twenty-four were placed behind the large music tent, seven in front of the tent including the wheelchair-accessible unit and hand-wash stations, 12 on the Saturday trail at the halfway point/lunch stop, seven along the trail every couple miles, and the remaining 70 scattered in singles throughout the campgrounds. Because the campgrounds are hilly, most units had to be leveled. Despite the numerous locations, Schoenike says they don’t have any trouble knowing where everything is because the layout is basically the same every year.


Preparation of equipment began nearly a month before the event. All units were steam cleaned using a 3,000 psi NorthStar hot-water pressure washer from Northern Tool + Equipment along with a GAMAJET rotary spray head (Alfa Laval) to get at all the nooks and crannies. To avoid interfering with their regular route work, deliveries took place during the two weekends before the event using a 12-place trailer from McKee Technologies - Explorer Trailers and a 1997 Ford F‑250. Everything was in place in time for early arrivers who started trickling in on Monday, Sept. 25. Since riding trails are typically logging roads, snowmobile trails, or even blacktop in some spots, trail access was not a problem.

After Saturday’s ride, nine units on that trail had to be moved to the Sunday trail and the rest were taken home. As Schoenike’s guys were busy on other jobs, Julie Schoenike came in and helped. While Dave Schoenike pumped out units, she followed in the hauling truck and picked them up — something she’s skilled at, having gotten a lot of experience in the early days of the company. After the event, the Lions wanted everything removed before the following weekend, so the company’s part-timers took care of that during the week after their other work.


All units were serviced Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5:30 to 11:30 a.m. As the team wound their way around the campground, they also pumped out a few RVs as people flagged them down. They used two service vehicles, both Ford F‑550s (2003 and 2005) built out by Imperial Industries with 600-gallon waste and 275-gallon freshwater steel tanks and Masport pumps. Fortunately the weather was good, but many years it rains and the vacuum trucks have to be towed through the muddy fields by John Deere farm tractors supplied by the Lions. “We don’t even put the trucks in gear,” Dave Schoenike explains. “We just leave them in neutral and let the tractors pull them. It slows you down some, but we’ve done it enough times that we’ve got it down to a science.”

The company’s septic truck, a 2008 International built out by Imperial Industries with a 3,600-gallon steel tank and National Vacuum Equipment pump, stayed on site during the event for storing septage from the other two trucks before eventual disposal at the Shawano waste treatment plant. Schoenike says one of his guidelines for cleanliness is “Keep the ladies happy” — advice from his wife. “That’s a key to any event,” he says. “If you keep the women happy, they’re going to stay.” That’s one reason all his units have hand sanitizer. For deodorant products, he uses Lily Tabs from PolyJohn Enterprises.


The Caroline Lions Colorama is Schoenike’s biggest event of the year. It usually goes off without a hitch because of his familiarity with it and the ease of working with the Lions. “The Caroline Lions men and women are very pleasant to deal with,” he says. “You’d be hard pressed to find a much better group of people.”


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