Wednesday, Apr. 23rd, 2014

CNN ranks Mabel Tainter Theater as one of the 'world's most spectacular'

One of Menomonie's most historic buildings was recently recognized by CNN. Can you guess which one? No, it's not that creepy abandoned house behind Ted's Pizza that looks like the setting of a horror film, although I'm still convinced there's something fishy going on in there. It's the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts of course!

Photo: Wisconsin Tourist Board
Photo: Wisconsin Tourist Board

This over-a-century-old theater was included on CNN's list, "15 of the world's most spectacular theaters." The venue was built in 1889 in honor of Mabel Tainter, a local music and arts enthusiast. According to the theater's website, the building was "constructed during the grand Victorian era," and "the exterior of the building is constructed of Dunnville sandstone quarried along the Red Cedar River." The building underwent a renovation in 2007, and a 28,130 square foot addition was built using sandstone from the original quarry. Pretty cool, huh?

The venue holds 269 seats and hosts a multitude of events including live music, theater and film screenings. But the building itself is entertaining in its own right. Marble staircases, hand stenciled artwork, unique stained glass windows and intricate woodwork provide a classy and historic atmosphere. Oh, and there's a really cool modified water-powered pipe organ. This original Steere & Turner organ has nearly 1600 pipes ranging in size from 2 inches to 16 feet. I still think the theater should hire an organist to play "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" on the thing for passerbys every evening, but they haven't gotten back to me on that.

"If this tiny theater is anything to go by, bigger certainly doesn't mean better," writes CNN's Tamara Hinson. Well said, Tamara. Can we please make "bigger certainly doesn't mean better" the official slogan of Menomonie?

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Coming Soon: Chippewa River overlook/access point

The Chippewa River near Water Street.
The Chippewa River near Water Street.

Eau Clairians will soon have a new way to enjoy the view of – and get to and from – the Chippewa River near Water Street. The Eau Claire City Council voted nearly unanimously Tuesday to OK plans by the Water Street Business Improvement District to build a 45-foot-by-30-foot overlook and deck at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Menomonie Street. The deck will be linked to the river by a pathway, which supporters say will provide access for tubers and other river users who now have limited options for getting back and forth to the water.

The deck and trail project was first suggested in 2009, but the idea had languished for five years until this spring. Now that the council has given its thumbs up, construction could begin as soon as this summer.

The project will be paid for by Water Street-area businesses, but construction required city approval. The deck and trail project was first suggested in 2009, but the idea had languished for five years until this spring. Now that the council has given its thumbs up, construction could begin as soon as this summer after backers iron out a few details with city engineers.

While the project has been promoted as a way to foster river recreation, safety worries were a sticking point in the council’s discussion. At a hearing Monday, Police Chief Jerry Staniszewski and Fire Chief Lyle Koerner expressed skepticism about increasing river access so close to taverns and strong river currents. These concerns led City Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle to propose an amendment at Tuesday’s meeting that would have removed the trail from the plan.

Several council members, notably Eric Larsen, a former deputy police chief, spoke strongly in favor of the amendment. Larsen said that drunk people who may be in danger of wandering into the water and drowning will do so at easy access points – such as the proposed trail – rather than by climbing down the riverbank.

However, the majority of council members said the benefits of the privately funded, publicly accessible project outweighed the potential hazards. “If you put something off limits, it creates more weird behavior,” said Councilman David Klinkhammer. “You can’t legislate morality; you can’t legislate stupidity.”

Councilwoman Kathy Mitchell agreed, saying the project is good for river users and for merchants. “We should build this trail and work to make it a safe place, partly by developing a culture of use along Water Street,” Mitchell said. She suggested installing something akin to a bike rack that tubers could tie their crafts to when they exited the river.

Ultimately, Emmanuelle’s amendment failed 7-3, and the council voted 9-1 to approve the project, with Larsen casting the lone dissenting vote.

A concept drawing from 2012.
Wave to the tubers! (A concept drawing from 2012.)

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Tuesday, Apr. 22nd, 2014

New Music at The Local Store!

New tunes from The Heart Pills, partner.
New tunes from The Heart Pills, partner.

The Local Store has been getting bombarded with new Eau Claire music lately! There have been a ton of awesome, new albums and projects released by local artists already in 2014 and it doesn’t seem to be decelerating any time soon. Recent artists with new albums or tapes – yes, cassette tapes – that you can get at The Local Store right now (or ship to an out-of-town music lover via our web store) include: Adelyn Rose (Ordinary Fantasy), Picard (Self-Titled), The Heart Pills (Gunfighter), Do It Yourself Daisy (The Local Machine), Nicholas Phillips (American Vernacular), Hounds Before Lions (Self-Titled), and Grant Larson (Terrane). AND a new album from S. Carey dropped on April 1. It’s looking like a promising year for the music scene in The Chippewa Valley!

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5 international cities that share the Chippewa Valley's weather patterns

Welcome to Saskatoon, Canada, where the weather is just like ours.
Welcome to Saskatoon, Canada, where the weather is just like ours.

WQOW meteorologists Nick Grunseth and LeAnn Lombardo lent us their expertise in looking at cities around the world where people experience the same weather we do here in the good ol' Chippewa Valley.

1. Oslo, Norway

Oslo experiences summer and winter averages that match up most closely with Eau Claire’s own, and snowfall can occur between November to April, though most accumulation happens between January and March (sound familiar?). However, Oslo is known to be “outstandingly cloudy,” receiving only 37% of the total sunshine hours that could be received annually. There is a high Scandinavian population in our area – could ancestors of Chippewa Vallians have been seeking a similar climate?

2. Warsaw, Poland

Though Warsaw doesn’t see some of the extreme highs and lows that we do in the summers and winters, respectively, it does fit into the humid continental (Dfb) climate designation and, like us, sits above the 40 degree N latitude line. Warsaw’s flora and fauna are akin to our natural wonders, too; they boast lots of oxbow lakes and 13 nature reserves that are home to otter, beaver, and hundreds of bird species.

3. Uralsk, Kazakhstan

As it lays on the western side of the Ural River from Russia, this city technically lays on the European continent. The country itself is known for its dairy and wheat production, and is often speculated as the origin of the apple. The city experiences a similar annual temperature to ours, with summer and winter averages inching close to our extremes… but not quite.

4. Moscow, Russia

Moscow’s reputation for cold winters can lead people to believe the city is bleak. But much like Eau Claire, the Moscow landscape is peppered with parks, averaging a whopping 290 square feet of parks per person (while Paris only has 6, London 7.5, and New York 8.6).  While their highest-ever recorded temperature was 100 degrees (and we’ve sailed past that many-a-time this summer), their average annual temperature is 42 and ours is 44.

5. Saskatoon, Canada

Here’s another member of the Dfb clan (humid continental climate), a mostly flat place that can match – or exceed – our extremes. Summer months can bring on thunderstorms and possible tornadoes, while winter brings snow that can only be described as blizzard. The growing season is narrow at mid-May to mid-September, so they’re missing out on that October pumpkin patch season that defines our Autumn. 

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Monday, Apr. 21st, 2014

Wisconsin ranked 8th best state for local food accessibility

How easy is it to buy fresh, local food in Wisconsin? According to, nonprofit group Strolling of the Heifers (think “running of the bulls”) determined just that by compiling the third annual Locavore Index. The index uses stats regarding the number of farmers markets, CSA programs, and food hubs statewide, as well as the percentage of school districts with farm-to-school programs. Toss in a little math and you have a list of the easiest to least easiest states in which to find local food. Wisconsin placed in the top 10 (woo!) in the 8th spot. Topping the list are those local lovers over in Vermont. And we don’t mean to focus on the negatives, but Minnesota is nowhere to be seen within the top 10. Take that, ‘Sotans! You’re way down at, um, 13th place. And what lonely state sits as the star of the very bottom? If you said “Texas,” reward yourself with a locally sourced pork chop dinner.

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