Questioning the Locals | Matt Carter
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Who: Matt Carter
What: Executive director, Dunn County Historical Society
In the Chippewa Valley for: Seven years (five in Eau Claire, two in Menomonie)
When it comes to local history, Matt Carter has it covered. After earning his degree at UW-Eau Claire, Carter moved from intern to executive director of the Menomonie-based historical group. While the region has a vast, rich history, Carter’s passion lies in baseball – he organizes and plays for the Menomonie Blue Caps, who play the game as it was intended (by 1860s rules, that is). Here, Carter tells us about his love for local baseball, the best burger in town, and why he’s at the post office so dang much.
How long have you lived in the Chippewa Valley?
I have lived in the Chippewa Valley for seven years. I lived five years in Eau Claire as a student at UW-Eau Claire and two years in Menomonie.
How long have you been at the Dunn County Historical Society?
I have been at the Dunn County Historical Society for four years. I was an intern in 2010 and 2011 and was hired after my 2011 internship. I have been a paid employee now for three years.
What’s something you’ve discovered about our history you think would surprise people?
I think most people would be surprised to learn about the rich history of baseball the Chippewa Valley has. The Chippewa Valley has had a number of famous professional players (Hank Aaron and Andy Pafko) play here and a long history of African-American barnstorming baseball teams that date back to the late 1800s.
Any “bucket list” research you’ve been dying to dig into?
I have been wanting to really dig into the research on African-American baseball in the Chippewa Valley. We did an exhibit on African-American barnstorming baseball teams at the Dunn County Historical Society and I discovered that dating back to the 1880s, black barnstorming teams have traveled throughout the entire Chippewa Valley. A number of the players were considered the best players at the time, such as George Wilson, who played in Chippewa Falls for a while.
If you could bring back one thing from the Chippewa Valley’s past, what would it be?
I would bring back the “downtown” to every community in the Chippewa Valley. At one point, downtown was the place every business wanted to be. Today many of the downtown buildings still exist, but they are usually not utilized the same way they once were. There is nothing better than a community that has an historic downtown for residents and visitors.
What place in town considers you a local?
As odd as it sounds, I would say the Post Office. I am in there every day at least once and oftentimes when I get there, they know if we have packages waiting in the back that they need to get.
What’s your favorite local festival?
It is a tie between WinterDaze and FreedomFest in Menomonie. Both events are great, community-oriented events that always have a large crowd at them. When you walk through the event you can tell everyone is having fun participating in all the different activities and they are genuinely excited to be there.
What’s the best part about living in the Chippewa Valley?
The best part about the Chippewa Valley is having so many options for just about anything you can think of. Whether it is restaurants, shopping or activities, there is always something to do somewhere, no matter what month it is.
What frustrates you most about the Chippewa Valley?
I do not have any frustrations about the Chippewa Valley at the moment.
What’s one of the best cultural experiences you’ve had here?
I think my best cultural experience relates to some of the cultural events we have held at the Dunn County Historical Society. It is outstanding to see that so many people take the time out of their day to show up to the different events we hold. Whether it is Menomonie Blue Caps vintage base ball matches, or museum programming, we always have a large crowd attending and showing their support.
Death bed, one meal from a local restaurant. What do you order?
The one meal I would order is the jerk burger with waffle fries from the Log Jam in Menomonie.
What’s something not many people know about you?
I think most people do not know how much I enjoy working with children. One of my favorite things about working at the museum is helping out with the school tours and the Menomonie Blue Caps Training Camp for Kids. The best part is asking the kids what they think an artifact in an exhibit was used for … then telling them what it was actually used for and seeing their reactions.
What book are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, by John Thorn. It’s a great book for anyone interested in the early history of baseball or if you play vintage baseball.