Best of the Chippewa Valley 2011: The Results

... for the fifth annual Best of the Chippewa Valley Readers’ Poll, we took a look back and made improvements just for you!

Can you believe this is already the fifth year of The Best of the Chippewa Valley? We can’t. And for some reason that number took us aback ‐ five years … really … already? ‐ and made us reflect on the significance.

That’s as many polls as there are members in Power Rangers, protons in Boron, and cards in poker. That’s the number of Jackson brothers required to generate an amazing Motown hit machine. Mathematicians would add that it’s an untouchable number and a big part of the Fibonacci sequence, which we think has something to do with The Da Vinci Code. It’s how many syllables Shakespeare needed for his poetry gold, and the number of symphonies Beethoven needed for immortality. It’s the elemental number according to the traditions of Socrates, East Asia, and Captain Planet, plus the most significant rating of hurricanes and tornadoes (in Twister they call an F5 “the finger of God!”).

After we wasted a solid hour on that little epiphany, which basically added up to “it’s mildly a kind-of, sort-of big deal,” we decided something special must be done. And long story short: we listened to your feedback from previous years, and we made the mechanics of the poll even better than before.

As you probably know, the purpose of many “Best Of” issues is to highlight an area’s businesses, people, events, groups, et al. This adds to an area’s sense of pride, gives credit where credit’s due, and allows visitors a quick summary of what the area has to offer. These things are, in concept, popularity contests. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Now, starting this year, everyone got to vote only once for each item they like on the poll. So now all the results are “true” reflections of the most popular things in the Chippewa Valley, compiled from 3,608 people and 106,863 votes.

But as some of you stated over the past few years, because we allowed people to vote every day if they so chose to, the Best Of was becoming a contest not to see what has the most fans, but what has the most fans with free time (willing to vote for them every single day). And we heard your repeated hollerings and adjusted the poll for the sake of purity. Now, starting this year, everyone got to vote only once for each item they like on the poll. So now all the results are “true” reflections of the most popular things in the Chippewa Valley, compiled from 3,608 people and 106,863 votes.

The other major decision we made this year was to open the floodgates and allow more categories than ever before. As usual, we always add a few categories in various areas and take a few away, just to keep things fresh. Previously, the least we’d ever had was 99 categories in 2007, and the most was 131 in 2008. This year, in order to make room for the many local businesses who wanted to be a part of the poll, we dramatically expanded the size of the “Shopping & Spending” category, which brought the 2011 total up to 156 categories. To accommodate so many new pieces in that section, you’ll notice we only list top three vote getters and skip the lengthy explanation you see in other sections. So you get the most important part (the actual winners) and if you want to investigate further you can seek out more information on your own. This makes sure more businesses and entrepreneurs than ever can be a part of this community poll.

So, check it out! And if your favorite places aren’t on top, be sure to do your part to spread the word next year!
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Best of 2011: tracking a community’s goals, hopes, and dreams

... how the community has progressed in five years and maybe – just maybe – how the Best of the Chippewa Valley may play a role

Before you take a look at this year’s winners,* we at Volume One wanted to take you on a trip through time and space. All the way back to five years ago, when we were getting ready to unveil our very first Best Of issue.

It was quite a different time. Long before grumblings about Scott Walker, the falsetto croonings of Bon Iver, or hoorahs about the Express and Packers. In fact, the popular topics of conversation were this new place called Phoenix Park, the closure of a little ole’ grocery store called Kerm’s, and a shiny new 53 bypass. Granted, some things haven’t changed much. We’re still talking about school referendums, WRR explosions, the jail, and road construction. But, for now, we want to direct your attention to what has changed.

Unlike the countless other Best Of polls out there, The Best of the Chippewa Valley not only highlights the best of what we have, but also the best of what we want. It’s not just a popularity contest, as some may reduce it, but also a list of our community’s collective goals. The hope is that developers, entrepreneurs, and officials are paying attention to your utmost desires.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but we looked at the list accompanying this article and said to ourselves, “Maybe they actually are …”

*We know it’s hard not to at least take a peek, so you can go ahead and rifle to a few categories; we’ll patiently wait for you.

Things you wanted since 2007, and where they stand ...

New arts venues (07)................................done, continuing
Other home improvement stores (07, 08, 10).....unlikely
Downtown revitalization (07-10)......................continued effort
Local food co-op (07).........................................done
YMCA expansion (08)........................................still possible
Erect multi-purpose arena (08-10)..................continued effort
Leinie’s makes free beer day (08)...................unlikely
Develop riverfront (08-10)................................highly likely soon
Higher wages (08, 10)........................................continued effort
High-speed rail stop (09-10).............................nope
A jail not downtown (09)...................................nope
Open the Stones Throw (10).............................done
Get grocery store downtown (10).....................opens late Oct
Reinvent Hastings & Barstow (10)..................happening now
Backyard chickens (10).....................................nope
Pass an EC school referendum (08, 10)..........done
Open an indie record store (10)......................done
Get a hard rock/metal station (10)..................unlikely
Arthouse movie theater (10)................likely (Downtown)
Expand The State Theatre (10).......................still possible
Raw Milk (10).....................................................still possible
Pick a dang UWEC mascot (10).......................still unlikely
Sculpture Tour (10)...........................................done
New skate park (10)..........................................likely
Open ENGAGE Charter School (10)...............still possible
Open a Trader Joe’s (10)..................................unlikely
Indian restaurant (09)......................................done
German Bierstube (10).....................................nope
An arcade bar (10)............................................nope
French restaurant (09-10)................................nope
Norwegian restaurant (09)...............................nope