Wednesday, Oct. 14th, 2015

Anonymous Donor Will Give $1M to Confluence If the Rest of Us Kick in 500 Grand

If you’ve been procrastinating about opening your wallet for the Confluence Project, it’s time to fill out a pledge form. Why now? If you do it before the end of the year, you can triple your money.

The offer may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. On Wednesday, the project’s fundraising committee announced that an anonymous donor is offering $1 million toward the proposed downtown Eau Claire performing arts center in the form of a challenge grant: The donor will pledge the money if the fundraising campaign can raise another $500,000 by Dec. 31.

The offer has prompted fundraisers to launch the “It’s Time” campaign to bring in the $500,000. The new effort will kick off Friday, Oct. 16, at the Uncorked Autumn Wine Tasting Gala sponsored by Gordy’s Market. 

Fundraisers announced this week that they’d topped the $10 million mark in private fundraising, thanks to three big gifts: Peter and Randi Scobie will contribute $100,000; BMO Harris has pledged $50,000; and Jon and Maureen Homstad have committed $50,000. The total philanthropic goal is $13.5 million of the arts center’s projected $40 million cost.

“We are continuing to see strong momentum with philanthropy for the Confluence Arts Center,” said fundraising campaign co-chairman Tom Barland in a news release. “The $15 million grant from the State of Wisconsin, included in the state’s budget, and Eau Claire County’s recent re-affirmation of its $3.5 million investment in the project has convinced people that the Confluence Arts Center is going to be a reality.  They are eager to help assure the capital campaign’s success.”

The Eau Claire Community Foundation is the main recipient of community gifts, while the UW-Eau Claire Foundation also continues to accept gifts for the arts center.

To learn more about the “It’s Time” Campaign, visit or To find out how to make a donation, contact Sue Bornick at the Eau Claire Community Foundation (715-552-3801 or or Kimera Way at the UW-Eau Claire Foundation (715-836-5180 or

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Tuesday, Oct. 13th, 2015

The "Most Beautiful" Spot in Wisconsin?

Apostle Islands
Apostle Islands

Wisconsin is a gorgeous state, I do believe we can all agree on that. But like the judges of a stately beauty contest, you may wonder exactly which part of Wisconsin is the prettiest.  Well, the website Thrillist takes a stab at it with a list of the most beautiful spots in each state.

According to Thrillist, the most beautiful spot in Wisconsin is the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in La Pointe. Known for its cold water diving, stunning underwater rock formations, and even sunken ships, it’s not surprising that Thrillist would consider this to be the most attractive place in Wisconsin. The best part about this area? It’s purty all year round. You can visit the islands any time of year, and they’ll look stunning whether you’re under water or above.

While our state’s majesty is undebatedly timeless, can the same can’t be said for our neighbor states? The list pegs Michigan's best spot as the 123 acres of trails and gardens found at the Nichols Arboretum, and Illinois’ claim to fame is the view from the top of the Willis Tower. I guess that works. In Minnesota, they liked the  Boundary Waters.

What do YOU think? Is Apostle Islands our most beautiful spot or what?

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Monday, Oct. 12th, 2015

One Man Is Biking the Entire Chippewa Valley (and Filming It)

Imagine the beauty and scenery of biking through the Chippewa Valley combined with the comfort of sitting on your couch. What was once a dream will soon become a reality!

From the company that brought you TourEauClaire comes a new project called BikeEauClaire. Jonathan Leuthe (owner of SpinVision) is at it again with some fancy camera work, bringing area bike trails to your computer screen.

The BikeEauClaire tour trike.
The BikeEauClaire tour trike.

This new project involves a tricycle, some high tech camera equipment, and enough muscle to bike all around the Chip with a 150 pound rig. Right now you can check out BikeEauClaire’s first tour video (above), but that’s far from the final experience.

This project is expected to take about three years to finish, and once it’s complete it won’t just be a touring video but an interactive experience. BikeEauClaire’s tour videos will eventually include info spots for points of interest such as restaurants, hotels, local attractions, and even historical markers. So, truth be told, "biking from your couch" isn't really the point of the video series.

But hey, it's an option. 

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Friday, Oct. 9th, 2015

6 Things (Pretty Much) Invented in Wisconsin

"No look here, boys, this pristine machinery sucks the power from the water."

A while back, we posted six world changing inventions that came from Wisconsin, but that’s hardly all of the amazing things Wisconsinites have invented. So for your reading pleasure and bar trivia, here are six more things invented in Wisconsin.

Dam, y'all!
Dam, y'all!

1. The First Commercial Hydroelectric Power Plant

Exciting, right? Opening on September 30, 1882 Wisconsin is home to the first commercially operated hydroelectric power plant. Fueled by the Fox River running through Appleton, the dams still stand and make for some nice sightseeing next time you’re heading that way.

2. Republicans

This one is more widely known. so it won’t impress your friends as much, but Ripon, Wisconsin is home to the first Republican Party.

William Horlick, the face of Malted Milk.
William Horlick, the face of Malted Milk.

3. Malted Milk

That’s right, the dairy state is responsible for making malted milk. 'Twas invented by William Horlick, a pharmacist from London who came to Racine to follow his brother who worked in a quarry there. Take that, England!

4. Anticoagulants

More commonly known as blood thinners, anticoagulants were developed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and have been used to save countless lives. You go, Madison.

5. The Ice Cream Sundae

This one is a bit of a tossup because it’s hard to prove who invented something as simple as putting a few ingredients together, but of the four commonly disputed origins of the ice cream sundae, Two Rivers is noted as having the first supposed creation date back in 1881.

6. The Gas Powered Tractor

We have to split credit with Iowa on this one because the first gas powered tractor was created by two men, Charles Hart and Charles Parr, who came up with the idea while attending the University of Wisconsin–Madison, but moved to Charles City, Iowa to find financing for their idea. One thing is for sure, that’s a lot of Charles for one invention.

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Thursday, Oct. 8th, 2015

Tickets Available for Stout's TEDx Talk

The Great Hall in Stout's Memorial Student Center will be the site of TEDxUW-Stout on Friday, October 23.
The Great Hall in Stout's Memorial Student Center will be the site of
TEDxUW-Stout on Friday, October 23.

As you may remember, UW-Stout will be hosting a TEDx Talk in their Memorial Student Center on October 23 with seven different speakers. The speakers range from a therapist-in-training and a social science professor to a liaison for foster students and a married pair of jugglers. 

There are 500 tickets available for the event and they’ll be raffled them off – 250 people will get one and they can bring one guest. You can enter the raffle until October 12when winners will be drawn. If you’re not one of the lucky winners able to attend, the videos from the event will be online shortly after.

You can get more information and enter to win tickets at Stout's TEDx Talk page, as well as check out the full speaker line up.

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Wednesday, Oct. 7th, 2015

Help Plan Eau Claire's New Transit Center!

Down by the Ol' Transfer Center.
Down by the Ol' Transfer Center.

If you’ve ridden the city bus in the last 30 years you’re probably familiar with the transit center on Farwell Street. The original transit center that sits there now was built in 1983 as a temporary structure, and 32 years later it’s held up well still standing, but it's outlived its usefulness.

The city of Eau Claire is well aware that it’s past time for a new transit center and that’s why they need your help. The city has made a survey asking Eau Clarians for their opinions on a new transit center!

Ann Schell, Transportation Planner for West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, says, “Downtown Eau Claire is undergoing an exciting renaissance.  A much needed new transit center should be an asset to the downtown and the greater Eau Claire area, a place that presents multiple reasons to visit, do business, or live, in addition to being a pleasant place to make seamless travel connections.  This survey is an opportunity for the community to help develop great ideas for a transit center and a greater multi-use development that will make Eau Claire proud.”

Take the Survey!

The planning committee needs to know what's most important to you. Wi-Fi? Bike rental stations? Changing and shower areas? Take the survey and let your voice be heard!

Above: Fine transit architecture from 1983.
Above: Fine transit architecture from 1983.

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Tuesday, Oct. 6th, 2015

The Local Store Releases New Camaraderie Tee!

Back in March, The Local Store held another semi-regular "Local Legends" t-shirt poll, asking you to vote on designs for limited-edition, vintage-style tees featuring the logos of beloved – and long gone – local businesses. Past winners include Kerm's, Woo's Pagoda, London Square, and Timm's Dairy. And based on its massive popularity in the last poll, the newest winner is none other than The Camaraderie.

The Camaraderie Tee is available in The Local Store right now, and you can order it online right here.

After decades of fond memories as a bar, eatery, and gathering place for Eau Claire patrons, this beloved Water Street hangout was destroyed by a fire in 2001. (The building used to stand at the corner of Water Street and 5th Avenue.)

Past Camaraderie owner Sandra Giammona shared some history with us...

"My father Peter A. Giammona, and his wife, my mother Lois E. Giammona, bought the bar and building in around 1947/48. It was originally known as Pete's 5th Ave. Bar, until around 1975, when my parents sold the bar/building to my brother, Joe Giammona and his wife Mary, my sister Mary Lee (Giammona) Johnson, her husband Meriland Johnson, and myself, Sandra J. Giammona, and my husband Stuart J. Allen. It was at that time it became The Camaraderie. Even as Pete's 5th Ave Bar, it was an icon. It was when my father owned it that the University students started coming there, making it their place."

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Friday, Oct. 2nd, 2015

Success is Brewing with UWEC’s Very First Entrepreneur Week

Marieke Penterman, owner of Holland’s Family Cheese in Thorp, maker of award-winning Goudas. Penterman is presenting on Thursday, Oct. 8.
Marieke Penterman, owner of Holland’s Family Cheese in Thorp, maker of award-winning Goudas. Penterman is presenting on Thursday, Oct. 8.

In an effort to heat up the Chippewa Valley’s already simmering entrepreneurial culture, the UW-Eau Claire College of Business is about to hold its first-ever Entrepreneur Week Oct. 5-8. Over four days, attendees will be inspired by successful local, national, and even international businesspeople who will speak about their entrepreneurial careers in fields ranging from land development to coffee to cheesemaking. They will also be able to learn about organizations that are helping prospective startups and mingle with other entrepreneurial-minded folks. All the events are open to the public – these aren’t just for students! – but you are encouraged to RSVP. Here’s a rundown on the speakers and events:

Startup Stories: Seattle's Best Coffee and the Search for the Best Beans

Monday, Oct. 5, 5-6:30pm, UWEC Haas Fine Arts Lobby, 121 Water St.

Enjoy Costa Rican coffee while UWEC alum Jim Stewart and his wife, Luz Marina Trujillo, talk about the coffee trade, including how Stewart’s business, Seattle’s Best Coffee, evolved from a single shop into a wholly-owned subsidiary of Starbucks. They’ll discuss starting and running businesses in the United States and Costa Rica, as well as the distinction between fair trade and direct trade coffee.

Startup Stories: From Retail to Real Estate: Lessons From a Lifelong Entrepreneur

Tuesday, Oct. 6, 5-6:30pm, UWEC Davies Center, Ojibwe Ballroom C (330C)

In more than 50 years as an entrepreneur, Eau Claire’s Dick Larson has done almost everything: The founder of Larson Companies began a fabric business in 1963, then moved on to owning shopping centers, apartments, hotels, offices, and more, as well as developing raw land. Find out what he’s learned from his half-century in the business world. (Refreshments and beverages will be served.) 

Ignite Wisconsin's Kick-Off Event: How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Wednesday, Oct. 7, 5-7pm, Acoustic Café, 505 S. Barstow St.

Ignite Wisconsin wants to light entrepreneurial fires by encouraging networking with successful business owners. The group’s kick-off event features a talk by Jack Kaiser of Cigan Properties, who will discuss how he helped turn a former tire factory in the bustling, multi-use Banbury Place, which has more than 150 tenants.

Startup Stories: Finding Your Niche and Going for It

Thursday, Oct. 8, 5-6:30pm, The Volume One Gallery, 205 N. Dewey St.

Two local businesswomen will discuss how they found and filled market niches in a way that put them on the road to success: Mickey Judkins is CEO of Details, a designer fashion store in Eau Claire; Marieke Penterman is owner of Holland’s Family Cheese in Thorp, maker of award-winning Goudas. Come down for samples of Marieke’s cheese, hors d’oeuvres, and beverages. Afterward, you’re invited to shoot the breeze with entrepreneurs beginning at 7:30pm at the Brewing Projekt Taproom, 2000 N. Oxford Ave. 

For full details of all these events, check out the website.

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Tuesday, Sep. 29th, 2015

Nothing Says "Fall" Like a Garth Brooks Corn Maze

Image: Govin's Farm
Image: Govin's Farm

Nothing says "fall" more than a corn maze and nothing says "corn maze" more than … um, Garth Brooks?

Govin’s Farm in Menomonie has made their annual corn maze Garth Brooks-themed this year, complete with his name and guitar playing image – in honor of the "wonderful entertainment" the country superstar has provided the Govin family over the years. You can check out their Facebook announcement, as well as Garth Brooks sharing the maze with his own fans.

The maze officially open right now, so you can try to find your way through Garth’s ... well, Garth!

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Monday, Sep. 28th, 2015

Vote for the Ice Age Trail!

The Ice Age Trail. Image: Michelob (really)
The Ice Age Trail. Image: Michelob (really)

Remember back in May when we were all voting to be The Best Town Ever? Well, that time we lost to Chattanooga – but not this time! Michelob Ultra (for real) and the American Hiking Society are giving away two $25,000 grants to preserve trails across America, and one of the front runners is in our own backyard. And you can help.

Wisconsin’s entry is the Ice Age Trail in Rib Lake and we’re currently sitting at third place. Ahead of us is Continental Divide Trail in Silver City, New Mexico and Florida Scenic Trail in Crawfordville, Florida.

If you’ve never been to the Ice Age Trail I suggest you go (especially as the leaves are turning) because it makes a pretty amazing hike. You can find more info about the trail and some pictures on Michelob’s (really) voting site, and read about the trail’s plans for the grant.

You can cast your vote here for your favorite trail, which is obviously ours, right? 

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