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2014 Volume One Staff Picks

Best Sue Orfield

Winner: Sue Orfield

When it comes to Sue Orfields, frankly, there’s no one like Sue Orfield. The ubiquitous band leader and host of The Sue Orfield Show on Chippewa Valley Community Television places highly in both our Best Blues Band and Best Jazz Band categories year after year, but to be honest, she breaks the mold for both, defyin’ genres left and right (and up and down, actually, too). So instead of letting her place in either of those categories this year, we figured she and her supporting band deserved their own altogether. Her big-band style crosses boundaries from blues to boogie to jazz to country and western, but doesn’t stick to any of them too tightly. So naturally, when we created the category of Best Sue Orfield, to be transparent and honest, we had a winner in mind. Good luck next year to all the other contending Sue Orfields – you’ve got a big name to knock down. –Eric Christenson

Best escalator (Eau Claire)

Winner: Eastridge Center

Absolutely destroying the competition for Eau Claire’s best escalator, top honors go once again to the escalator found in the Eastridge Center on Hastings Way, located under the Highland Fitness facade. The atrium features two pairs of Otis-brand crisscrossed motor-driven moving staircases with cozy 24-inch-wide steps. The escalators connect the main level to suites in the basement where Highland Fitness lies, and the second floor, where the doors to NPO Reach Inc. stand beside the highest landing. Commenting on the benefits of descending escalation, Reach Inc. program director Anne Woolever laughed and said, “I can drink my coffee without looking down!” Considering this particular moving walkway is the only escalator in Eau Claire, some readers may balk at Eastridge’s first place ranking. In reply, we quote Woody Allen: “Showing up is eighty percent of life.” Think about it. –Tyler Griggs

Worst place to go if you’re terrified of hundreds of stuffed birds

Winner: James Newman Clark Bird Museum

Graciously donated to UW-Eau Claire in 1959, the expert and prolific bird taxidermy of the James Newman Clark Bird Museum is sure to terrify anyone who is easily creeped out by 100-year-old dead animals with wings where their arms should be. Encircling the Planetarium in Phillips Hall, the Bird Museum houses more than 530 species, as well as four elaborate dioramas, all of them hideous to ornithophobic museum-goers. Patrons who are horrified by the idea of hundreds of stuffed birds quietly turning their cold yet inquisitive eyes directly at them, as if preparing to burst from their transparent tombs in a flurry of shattered glass and stray feathers – no matter how impossible and ridiculous the nightmare scenario may be – will want to steer clear. But if you like birds, it’s pretty great. Admission is free. – Mike Paulus

Best theatrical performance while kneeling

Winner: Zach Schultz, in Shrek: The Musical

It takes talent and self-confidence for a man to put on makeup, a wig, and a kinda girly costume and take to the musical theater stage. It takes an extra-heaping dose of je ne sais quoi – Stamina? Foolhardiness? Cartilage? – to do so while strutting around on his knees for the whole damn show. That’s what Zach Schultz did while portraying the diminutive but evil Lord Farquaad in the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre’s summer production of Shrek the Musical. Schultz stole the already hilarious show while maintaining the simple but effective illusion that he was a half-leg shorter than real life. His kneecaps’ pain was our funny bones’ gain. – Tom Giffey

Best place to go if you want to brag about how much you like Vietnamese street food

Winner: Noodle Teahouse

A common Vietnamese street food popular for years in larger American cities, the bánh mì sandwich (or just “Vietnamese sandwich”) has only recently torpedoed into the Chippewa Valley through the culinary battleship known as Noodle Teahouse (2161 East Ridge Center, Eau Claire). And I love them for it. The capable chefs at this joint prepare many wonderful dishes (pho, spring rolls, boba tea, etc.), but the meaty bánh mì is something I can’t live without. This unique sandwich is a product of French colonialism in Indochina, combining ingredients from the French (baguettes, pâté, and mayonnaise) with native Vietnamese ingredients, such as cilantro, fish sauce, and pickled carrots. To sum up, we’re talking about fresh, delectable Asian food stuffed into a chewy, crusty roll – and Noodle Teahouse serves ‘em up warm-n-toasty in five different flavors. – Mike Paulus

Hottest Mascot Couple

Winner: Trax and Trix

Crushing the competition like a team finishing their season undefeated, Trix and Trax of the Eau Claire Express are the Chippewa Valley’s Hottest Mascot Couple. The summer of 2014 was extra special in the life of Trax. The potato-faced train engineer had his doubts on whom this new mascot might be, but when the name “Trix” came out on top in a vote among Express fans, Trax grinned his biggest gopher’s grin yet. No one would be sure until the season started, but all signs were pointing to the new mascot being a lady Trax-thing*. Despite a home opener rainout that delayed Trix’s Carson Park debut, she was unveiled at the next first-pitch ceremony. The two have been dogged by paparazzi ever since. When asked for a comment on the couple’s new sizzling romance, the two said, well, nothing, and then waved enthusiastically. –Tyler Griggs

*Editor’s note: According to Volume One’s mascot taxonomy expert, the proper nomenclature is Homo Engineericus Expressicai.

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