Friday, Sep. 18th, 2009

MOST MEMORABLE HAPPENING IN THE PAST YEAR

1st Place: Jail proposal defeated
2nd Place: Bon Iver on Letterman
3rd Place: Memorial Jazz wins Essentially Ellington

How badly did Eau Claire want a new jail expansion in 2009? The answer, in fact, is that they didn’t really want it at all. Through grassroots organization, strong public outcry, and heated council meetings, the folks of Eau Claire shot down a multi-million dollar expansion of the county jail deeper into the West Grand neighborhood and along the adjoining riverbank. Over the winter locally grown bearded celebrity Justin Vernon appeared on Late Night with David Letterman. You may recall feeling a sense of pride watching a man you’ve probably seen at the bar knocking the ear-pants off of New York while wearing a Badger t-shirt and a flannel. Our memorable happenings were filled out with the Memorial Jazz Program winning the Essentially Ellington contest, proving once again that the Chippewa Valley is a force to be reckoned with in the high school jazz arena. – Aryn Widule

Chippewa Choice: The Chippewa Sand Mine controversy

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BEST LOCAL IDEA THAT WORKED LAST YEAR

1st Place: Stymie the jail expansion
2nd Place: Blues series in Owen Park
3rd Place: The Livery

There are a ridiculous number of good ideas shooting around these parts, so inevitably some of them make the jump from idea to awesome happening in just a year. In a tremendous community effort, a proposal to expand the current jail was stymied in a way that reminded everyone that if enough people speak their mind they can protect large tracts of beautiful river banks and cool old neighborhoods. Speaking of rivers, Owen Park’s bandshell has been graced each Tuesday night by the soulful sounds of some of the Valley’s best blues musicians. Breaking the river-related trend was the opening of The Livery in one of downtown Eau Claire’s lovely historic buildings. If a town can turn a former horse rentery into a successful restaurant, I’m pretty sure it can do anything. – Aryn Widule

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MOST DISAPPOINTING FAILURE IN THE PAST YEAR

1st Place: Stones Throw
2nd Place: School board cuts
3rd Place: The economy

Nobody likes to be disappointed, but every once in a while it happens to all of us. The Stones Throw is one of the most popular and iconic music venues Eau Claire has ever had. Big acts broke there, returned there, and played alongside local groups for years. Despite some great moments of success, the venue’s most recent owners ducked out in summer, leaving it vacant yet again. Facing a huge deficit the Eau Claire School Board was forced to make a number of large cuts this year, and any time you take positions away from education, or tell it that you don’t have enough money for it, the community suffers. As a follow-up, I think we can all agree that the economy has been about as much of a disappointment as finding out your 13 year-old has picked up smoking. The only difference is your child picking up a bad habit won’t make you lose your job and get kicked out of your house. – Aryn Widule

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THINGS THE CHIPPEWA VALLEY IS GOOD AT

1st Place: Farmers markets
2nd Place: Natural beauty
3rd Place: Homegrown talent

For a list that is as long as the Paul Bunyan’s axe handle, it’s quite a feat that the local farmers markets gave a spanking (albeit appropriate) to the remaining Chip-Valley-is-good-at listers this year. It’s hard to disagree about these results, especially when the sun is shining as you hit the markets in your shades and sandals to peruse the fruits of local labor. Natural beauty came in second place. Please focus your applause toward the feng shui of the Chippewa River and the ancient rock carving glaciers for shaping this corner of the north woods into the lake, river, and bluff assemblage that we put to use under skis, boats, bikes, and boots. And in third place is homegrown talent. No one person deserves top billing here as all Valley residents are crowding the top of the list. Thanks for being you. – Mark Koenig

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