Freshman Nennig: National Champion Loon Caller

Clare Ravizza , Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

“Loon calling’s my passion,” said 2013 Mercer Loon Calling Competition Grand Champion Sam Nennig, a freshman here at Notre Dame Academy.

Loon calling is certainly a peculiar hobby, but it has always been a big part of Nennig’s life. He can’t remember exactly when he began, but Nennig has been loon calling for as long as he can remember.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I was a loon caller. I used to go out on my lake [up North] and call to them,” Nennig recalled.

It may seem like a rare talent, but Nennig isn’t alone. Every year, in Mercer, Wisconsin, loon enthusiasts from all around the United States gather together to celebrate Loon Day.

Loon Day is a giant flea market with arts and craft booths, bake sales and live entertainment. The Loon Day celebration is attended by 9,000-10,000 people each year, and this upcoming summer will be the 35th Annual Loon Day.

Loon Day is also home to the world famous Mercer Loon Day Loon Calling Competition, where loon callers from all across the nation compete to win the coveted title of Loon Calling Grand Champion.

Around noon the competition begins with the first bracket. The 0-6-year-olds loon call before a crowd and a group of judges, and a winner is chosen. The same for the 7-12-year-olds, then the 13-17-year-olds, before the 18+ division competes.

The winners from each of the four brackets do their best loon call, and one Grand Champion is selected from among them.

In 2013, when Nennig was just 13 years old, he won the 13-17-years-old division, and then advanced to the final competition.

According to Nennig, there are three essential types of loon calls. Up until the competition day, Nennig only knew the first two. Once Nennig won his division, though, he decided it was time to up the stakes.

“I learned the third type the day of my competition because I needed something to really up my game,” Nennig remembered.

It was successful. Nennig took home the title of 2013 Mercer Loon Day Loon Calling Grand Champion, as well as a nice trophy.

“It felt like all my hardwork just finally paid off,” Nennig said.

The following year, Nennig took second place in his division but did not advance to the final round.

These days at NDA, any visitor of Mrs. Brown’s 7th hour Honors English class receives a special treat: a loon call from a National Champ.

“Our shadows and other guests are given a rather special experience, something to remember us by,” said Brown.

This year, on August 5, 2015, anyone can head up to Mercer and check out Loon Day, where Nennig plans to compete again for the national title.