Friday, Aug. 16th, 2019

COMMUNICATION WIN: Working Payphone Still Exists in Downtown Eau Claire

Above: Phone.
Above: Phone.

First, a short history. The first payphone was installed on a street corner in downtown Hartford, Connecticut in 1889 by William Gray, the son of Scottish immigrants. As the story goes, Gray’s wife had fallen very ill, and he needed to use an agent-operated telephone pay station to call the doctor. These telephone pay stations were usually few and far between, so odds are Gray had to run all over Hartford looking for a station and beg to budge in line for it. He got increasingly frustrated with the inconvenient design of these stations, and thus, to alleviate this frustration, the idea for the first payphone was born.

Eventually the payphone rose to prominence, but (as you surely know) has slowly fallen into near-obscurity thanks to landlines and cell phones. According to the FCC, there are only about 100,000 phone booths left in the United States.

And some of them are close to home. 

One of the last, working payphones in Eau Claire just happens to be on North Barstow Street, which is in walking distance of Volume One World Headquarters – so naturally, they sent a twenty-year-old intern to suss it out.

Thar she blows.
Thar she blows.

I didn’t know exactly where the payphone was, so my plan was to just walk around North Barstow until I found it, but luckily, it wasn’t hard to find. It was standing tall and forgotten in the afternoon sun right across the road from Star Cup (316 N Barstow St.), and I nearly got run over by a huge beverage delivery truck as I took the picture you see above. It does indeed work, but the “interface” was not immediately user friendly to me. I assumed I could pick up the receiver, drop in two quarters (for what I thought was a local call), and the dial tone would just sputter out of the speaker. But I soon learned how inexperienced I really was.

As it turns out, the receiver needs to be hanging from the cradle when you insert your coins or nothing will happen, and the delivery truck driver who nearly ran you over will try to chat with you about payphones as you stand there, confused and upset that this machine ate your quarters. It took me about three tries until I got the steps right. 

As it turns out, the receiver needs to be hanging from the cradle when you insert your coins or nothing will happen, and the delivery truck driver who nearly ran you over will try to chat with you about payphones as you stand there, confused and upset that this machine ate your quarters. It took me about three tries until I got the steps right. After I was confident it was working, I stood there for another few seconds waiting to hear my roommate’s phone ringing on the other end.

I did not hear said ringing.

At this point, I became a little frustrated, and I almost threw in the metaphorical towel, but then I heard the voice. There was a faint, womanly voice coming out of the receiver in my hand, and I had to crush my ear with the speaker to better hear it, and what she said was this: “Please insert one dollar.”

Above: Quarter-guzzling legacy telecommunications technology.
Above: Quarter-guzzling legacy telecommunications technology.

What?! One dollar? But, my roommate lives in Eau Claire! That’s a local call, isn’t it?

Begrudgingly, I fished around in my purse for another two quarters and fed the greedy payphone one more time. I was able to call my roommate (who is very patient with me), but the number was unfamiliar so she declined to answer. I left a message.

I felt extremely stupid dialing her number from a payphone as I had my cell phone with all her contact information in one hand and the very quiet receiver pressed to my ear in the other. It was like the old and the new worlds colliding on that corner of Barstow and Madison. But hey, it worked.

And for the low, low price of fifty cents for a local call (one dollar for a non-local cell phone), you too can interact with history.

The idea for this adventure was inspired by an Instagram post  from the Chippewa Valley Museum, which is looking for more local payphones. If you know of one, let them know!

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Thursday, Aug. 15th, 2019

Dungeons & Dragons in Eau Claire: How to Get Started

Images: 1, 2, 3 (CC BY-NC 4.0)
Images: 1, 2, 3 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a tabletop roleplaying game (RPG) which encourages its players to not only do a lot of basic math, but to really indulge in their fantasies and imagination to create a world of magic and combat all their own. As part of the character-building process, players are told to pick ideals and flaws that their characters have, as well as what their own personal goal might be outside of the main campaign created by the all-knowing dungeon master (DM). D&D has become more mainstream in recent years, possibly due to the downfall of the Satanic Panic of the '80s (and definitely because of its emergence in beloved pop culture franchises), and more people than ever have started unraveling the secrets of the fantastical world of Faerûn. Nowadays, D&D isn’t just for dark, damp basements. 

James Johonnott, Volume One's listings and resource editor and a seasoned DM, would explain it to the “non-dice-rolling public” as “a group of people sitting down to imagine a story together.” And, those stories you make with friends can be dramatic, hilarious, or heroic, and they stick with you. Making plans with friends, especially as an adult, can be very challenging. At any given time, adult life is absolute chaos, but Johonnott says setting time aside every week helps him to “foster and maintain adult friendships.” Not only does D&D allow for a fun break in the chaos with friends, but he adds, “Imagining another person and their personality, goals, and ambitions is a great way to connect with other people at the table, and explore other identities.” D&D is all about imagination, adventure, and problem-solving, but it’s also about friendship, as corny as that sounds, and building memories that will last a lifetime.

That's Great, but ... How Do I Play?

If you’ve been wondering how to get started, have no fear because Eau Claire Games and Arcade is here (315 Graham Ave., Eau Claire | website). Eau Claire Games and Arcade has set aside scheduled times for players to meet on Sundays from 3 to 8pm as well as Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 10pm. Here you will be able to find players and DMs to help you understand the rules and mechanics of the game, as well as find other groups to join if you’re alone, and believe me, you are never alone in searching for a D&D group. You can even privately message the store on Facebook if you need help forming a group, and they will help you contact other players around the Chippewa Valley. If you’re a newbie and you feel intimidated by the seasoned players who seem to know everything about the game, that’s okay, but know that these people are a great resource and the employees are there to help you.

D20 Gaming (2158 Eastridge Center, Eau Claire |Facebook) is also a great place to get involved with the D&D community, and it’s a wonderful place to get your starting equipment. I recommend every player invest in the D&D Player’s Handbook and a set of slick new dice, and every DM should have a copy of the D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide to help them build their world and lead a positive gaming experience.

However, these rule books can get a little pricey. When I asked Johonnott what advice he had for someone who’s interested, but is also on a budget, he recommends checking out to find free rules, and purchasing the newly released D&D Essentials Kit is “the best way to get in on the ground floor.”

5 Tips for the New Hero

1. You do not have to use real figurines. Figurines can get expensive, and painting them can be annoying and time-consuming, so just forget the whole thing and use some extra dice lying around. Honestly, as long as it’s small, you can use anything to represent your character on the map. Random baubles from around the house, pieces and figures from other game sets, or even painted rocks from the yard work perfectly.

2. You don’t even need a map, either! DMs need to prep and think of so many different scenarios for their players, that making combat or setting maps can get really time-consuming, but if you have a small party with a good imagination, maps aren’t necessary.

3. Playing for four hours straight can be exhausting. Mentally and emotionally. Be kind to yourself and take a break in the middle of the session, or start off with smaller sessions of one or two hours to get yourself used to using your brain at full throttle for extended periods of time. Snacks and fizzy drinks are also great to have on-hand during a session to give your brain the extra boost it needs to explore an abandoned castle.

4. If you don’t know how to play, or you think you’re playing it wrong, don’t worry about it. The beauty of D&D is that every party and campaign is different. But, if you still want some examples, there are plenty of podcasts out there to listen to, such as The Adventure Zone, which is available on all podcasting platforms, and Critical Role, an online series which can be found on Youtube,, or their own website at

Important Note: Not everyone is as professional or talented a story-teller as Matt Mercer! Sometimes, you just gotta be a McElroy, and that’s great fun, too.

5. Lastly, and this is the most important part, don’t be afraid to get silly! I know it’s hard in the beginning, and you’re going to feel stupid, but making up fun accents or voices and throwing yourself into something is so much fun and rewarding. Sharing such a powerfully imaginative experience with your friends makes those friendships so much stronger, and it allows you to fully immerse yourself in that world.

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Thursday, Aug. 8th, 2019

Keep Calm, Bon Iver Fans: You can listen to the entire new album today

i,i listening party at The Local Store in downtown Eau Claire, August 7.
i,i listening party at The Local Store in downtown Eau Claire, August 7.

After listening parties took place last night (Aug. 8) in more than 60 cities all over the world in places like Amsterdam, London, New York, L.A., Sydney, Tokyo, and a little ol’ city called Eau Claire – Bon Iver started dropping songs from their new record i,i every hour overnight (plus videos). Six of them are out there as of this posting – “We,” “Naeem,” “Marion,” “Salem,” “Holyfields,” and "iMi," featuring James Blake and Velvet Negroni – but by the end of the day today, the record should be out in full.

Physical copies of i,i, the band’s fourth album, release on Aug. 30. Four singles from the record have already been out there for a while – “Hey Ma,” “Man (U Like),” “Faith,” and “Jelmore.”

With i,i and the ensuing arena tour that follows its release, the band and its growing family of collaborators are gearing up for a blockbuster live show, the details of which are outlined in a recent mini-documentary released with WeTransfer.

“It’s a much bigger sound, and we’re pushing more air,” frontman Justin Vernon said in the mini-doc. "I hope when people hear the record they’re kind of interested to see how we’ll do it live, because it’s quite intense. There’s a lot of layers, there’s a lot of big sounds, and everyone’s challenged by the record. We’re literally in the midst of figuring out how to do that and it feels really exciting.”

There’s gonna be lots more to talk about in the next few weeks, so keep your ears open and eyes peeled.

You can stream all these songs wherever you do that kind of thing, and you'll be able to get your physical copies Aug. 30. And you can preorder physical copies from The Local Store.

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Friday, Jul. 26th, 2019

Wisconsin State Journal Profile Dives Deep on Eau Claire, Banbury Place

Eau Claire's Banbury Place via the
Eau Claire's Banbury Place via the "S Bridge."

On July 14, the Wisconsin State Journal dedicated more than 3,500 words to the story of Eau Claire’s economic comeback and artistic endeavors, pointing to a number of developments helping to make it all happen. The profile stands out against the many other articles on Eau Claire we’ve seen over the past five years because it takes a much deeper dive than the usual tourism pieces, and rightfully recognizes ideas and people who’ve been in play for well over a decade.

Sure, you’ll see the usual references to Justin Vernon, the Pablo Center, and other big, important developments of the past 10 years. But as the article details, it’s taken heartfelt effort on behalf of hundreds, if not thousands, of Chippewa Valley doers to get the city on track for improvement.

Prominently featured was the impact of Banbury Place, which serves as a home for hundreds of small local businesses, studios, artists, and more:

“One of the most vibrant and colorful places in the complex is building 13 that had been used as a hardware warehouse and parts facility for the tire plant. The building is now home to several studios for a wide range of artists, a coffee shop, art gallery and Forage, an event space and commercial kitchen that opened in 2016.”

It’s great to see Banbury and its residents get the attention they deserve. The sprawling complex has really been one of the city’s workhorses as far as artistic and entrepreneurial efforts are concerned. The article does a good job tracing the property's historic economic significance to what it is today – and the people who make it so.

Artisan Forge Studios gets its own call-out for similar efforts to house and inspire local artists and entrepreneurs.

“Across town, a similar concept is growing in a former International Truck repair shop. The 33,000-square-foot Artisan Forge Collective was created by Greg Johnson, a metal artist and fabricator, in 2015. The building is home to 51 artists, a coffee shop and hair salon. The idea of the business is to provide studio and gallery space for artists with Johnson's staff marketing and selling the artwork for the artists.”

Other shout-outs include the Lismore Hotel, The Oxbow and The Lakely, Jamf Software and Zach Halmstad, and the Eau Claire Jazz Festival, as well as area artists both established and up-and-coming.

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Wednesday, Jul. 17th, 2019

8 Weird and Wondrous Wisconsin Summer Festivals

Grill Games | Image:<a href=
Grill Games | Image:

Wisconsin festivals are, by far, the most classic, Midwestern affairs to experience during the year. Here there be eight Wisconsin festivals to visit this summer, as well as a bonus festival listed at the bottom that you’ll just have to check out.

1. Grill Games – Kenosha

August 27 • 281 Miles from Eau Claire

If you are Bobby Flay, a dad who enjoys wearing jorts, or you just live to grill, then Grill Games in Kenosha is calling you. The grilling and barbecue competition will kick off the festival on a Saturday, but admissions aren’t quite open yet, so keep your eyes glued to their Facebook page for updates. A festival devoted to competitive grilling and barbecuing may not be heaven for everyone, though. If you find yourself ambivalent towards grilled or barbecued choice meats, the Grill Games festival spans three days, wherein as many as ten local bands perform various genres like country, rock, pop, rap, and more. In the past, they’ve also offered a giant screening of the 1970’s cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show (because why not?) where costumes and props are heavily encouraged. During the day, however, families and friends can compete in a baggo tournament and various beach games including bingo, – so there really is something for everyone.

2. Burger Fest and Balloon Rally – Seymour

"Mmmmm." – Godzilla
August 9–10 • 184 Miles from Eau Claire
Not to be confused with Kenosha’s Grill Games, Burger Fest [AND] Balloon Rally in Seymour narrows its focus on burgers and hot air balloons. They don’t have any old burgers, though. No. At Burger Fest, grill masters will grill an enormous 200-pound burger right in front of your eyes. You read that right: 200 pounds. All events start in the afternoon on Friday with kids’ activities, a car show, and live music. The hot air balloon ascension begins at 6pm on Friday and Saturday with a “balloon glow” at dusk, and another ascension begins at 6am on Saturday and Sunday (weather permitting). Participants of the festival can even purchase a $10 raffle ticket Friday night between 4pm and 8pm at the Balloon Rally for a chance to float up in a balloon on Saturday morning. Other events include a hamburger eating contest and a parade at 11am on Saturday morning with this year’s theme The Birth of the Burger – A Throwback to 1885, which is when Seymour claims their mascot, Hamburger Charlie, invented the hamburger as we know it.

3. Corn n' Tater Festival – Grand Marsh

August 18 • 131 Miles from Eau Claire

Within Grand Marsh lies the largest, one-day festival in Adams County: The Corn n’ Tater Festival. From 11am to 4pm they serve roast beef sandwiches, all-you-can-eat corn and taters (it's right in the name), and your choice of coffee or milk with every dinner ticket purchased at the grounds or before the day at one of the participating establishments. Rain or shine, you can expect to have buckets of fun with your kids at the corn eating contest, bingo, kiddie tractor pull, volleyball tournament, horseshoe tournament, and more. Arts and crafts tents with local venders fill one portion of the festival with handcrafted wares, and local bands perform live music free for everyone from 1pm to 7pm, so take advantage of this rare opportunity to enjoy a superb, quirky festival which also offers, wait for it, FREE PARKING.

4. UFO Days – Elmwood

July 25–28 • 35 Miles from Eau Claire

It seems that the paranormal and extraterrestrial have taken an interest in Elmwood, WI. Is it coincidence? Or, is there something in Elmwood that attracts the peculiar and unexplainable? Regardless, UFO Days celebrates its unique history with a four-day festival in the last weekend of July starting with a community-wide garage sale (except for Sunday), and pancake breakfasts sponsored by the Elmwood Knights of Columbia at 8am on Saturday and Sunday. Activities for adults and kids alike begin in the late morning on Friday with touch a truck, kid’s games, a petting zoo, and close with the paper plate drop, chicken poop raffle, and the first clue for the medallion hunt at the souvenir stand. The festivities continue on Saturday with the annual car show, fun run, sidewalk chalk contest, and a UFO painting class in the morning, with more games for the kiddos and competitions in the late afternoon. Parades and live music finish off the festival on Sunday, and each night offers street dancing by different artists until "very late" in the night, or very early in the morning, depending on when you wake up. Live music can be found at the food tent, and participants of the festival are encouraged to dress up like aliens or any other cool, extraterrestrial entity that you find wacky and weird to get into the spirit. We may never know what attracts such unexplainable phenomena to Elmwood, but that won’t stop us from celebrating the spooky.

5. Musky Jamboree – Boulder Junction

Image: Theresa Smith

August 9–11 • 182 Miles from Eau Claire

If you love fishing, eating fish, or just looking at those pretty scales, it’s very possible that the Musky Jamboree in Boulder Junction is the place for you. This festival is dedicated to everything fishy, but with a specific focus on musky. If you’ve ever wondered how those master fishermen catch these wriggly ones, have no fear because from 8:30am to noon, the community center hosts a How to Fish Musky Workshop for all those who are curious or find themselves frustrated with their unrefined technique. Afterwards, once you’ve got that wrist flick down, you can party all night long on the street by Coontail Corner with drinks served by American Legion Post 451. On the following days, you can enjoy the Best Fish Fry cookoff where you can taste and judge as much fish as you can eat, live music, a classic car show on Sunday, the arts and crafts fair as well as venders showcasing their creative goods, and a fun run on Saturday morning. The Musky Jamboree ends in the early afternoon on Sunday with live music and awards for those who entered into the classic car show and the kids casting contest.

6. National Mustard Day – Middleton

August 3 • 170 Miles from Eau Claire

In the beginning (aka the summer of 1991), National Mustard Day occupied only three parking stalls in front of the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, a suburb of Madison. Today, both Hubbard and Parmenter Streets downtown are blocked off for this iconic event – even Jonathan Wolenec, the Mustard Mascot from 2017, admits that he “didn’t realize how popular of an event this was before volunteering,” but after joining in some of the games, he says, “it’s amazing and I recommend anyone go to the event.” To start off the spicy soiree, the POUPON U Accordion Band plays the “Mustard Day Overture” at 9:30am, and the festivities can truly begin. Local bands like The Red Hot Horn Dogs, Speedtrap, and City Electric will help you rock out to old favorites and introduce you to new favorites in rock, pop, and soul. While the bands are rocking out, the mustard tasting tents are open for samples and offer a myriad of marvelous mustards from local mustard masters, and let’s not forget the mustard games! Kids and adults alike can test their skills in Mustard Pitch, Fishing for Mustard, Hoops for Koops’ Mustard Ring Toss, and many more exciting games and challenges; plus, all proceeds go to supporting the Sauk Trails Optimist Club as well as the non-profit National Mustard Museum.

7. Watermelon Fest – Pardeeville

September 7 • 156 Miles from Eau Claire

Pardeeville? Nah, son, you mean PARTY-ville. The first Saturday after Labor Day, PARTY-ville hosts the biggest, wildest watermelon rager this side o’ the Miss’ippi. This year marks the 52nd annual celebration of this festival which was, unsurprisingly, born from the minds of Pardeeville’s greatest thinkers after an evening of drinks at Bob Merwin’s Long Branch Saloon in an effort to put Pardeeville on the map with a festival so fun and inexpensive that people just had to stop by. All day long, various competitions are held at the festival grounds such as seed spitting, speed eating, largest watermelon, and even watermelon carving. Everyone is invited to participate in any or all contests held throughout the day, but you have to bring you’re A-game because the competition is fierce.  

8. Sovereign State Days – Winneconne

July 18–21 • 192 Miles from Eau Claire

If you’ve never heard of Winneconne (Wineh-connie), Wisconsin, it’s about 29 miles southwest of Appleton with a population of 2,350, and it is home to a festival with, quite possibly, the most hilarious origin story I’ve ever come across. With a population of 1,273 in 1967, Winneconne was so small that it was accidentally left off the official Wisconsin highway map. Offended and frustrated, the people of Winneconne decided to “put themselves back on the map” by seceding from the state on July 21st of that year. Within that very day, the governor responded by promising to place signs on Highways 41 and 110 leading to Winneconne, and allowed the town to review the 1968 map before it was sent to print. This proved to be enough to convince Winneconne to stay a part of Wisconsin, and today it celebrates its brief day of rebellion with an annual, three-day festival. The festival kicks off this year on the eighteenth of July with bouncy houses, kids activities, a DJ, and food served at Waterfront Park. Friday has a firework celebration as well as a performance from the local band Road Trip at Waterfront Park later in the day, but the real festivities are during the weekend at Marble Park. After a fun run beginning at the Winneconne High School on Saturday, the arts and crafts tents open at 9am and last until 4pm, alongside a softball tournament at 8:30am – and the rest of the day is filled with activities such as coed beach volleyball, a parade on main street, kids water fight, pony rides, and so, so much roasted and grilled food by local vendors throughout. Winneconne implores you to discover the rebel within yourself and celebrate sticking it to The Man while you chow down on brats and pulled pork.  

For more information, visit

And in case your summer wasn’t exciting enough, here’s one more festival to leave the season on a high note!

9. Wet Whistle Wine Fest – Algoma

September 13–14 • 224 Miles from Eau Claire

If you love wine and there’s something in you that has always wanted to squish grapes between your toes, the Wet Whistle Wine Fest in Algoma is where you can realize all of your wine dreams. Festivities begin on Free Admission Friday, but canned foods are greatly appreciated. On this day, live music is provided by Bazooka Joe, and food is served from 5pm to 9pm. Saturday includes admission for everyone above the age of 12, and all the proceeds go towards community improvement of Algona as well as the Algoma Fire and Rescue. It would be wise to dress up and blend in with, not shorts and a t-shirt, but costumes of wine bottles and nuns drinking Naughty Girl wine to really let go and dive into the fun. Live music plays throughout the day, grape stomp heats are at 12:20pm, 1:30pm, and 3pm, and YOU can participate – provided your name is chosen from the drawing. Tours and wine tasting at the local winery are open from 9am to 6pm, so if you happen to have a little too much fun, you can always contact the Algoma Chamber of Commerce for listings of great, available lodgings in the area.

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Friday, Jul. 12th, 2019

Mountain Dew Sucks at Geography, Cedes U.P. to Wisconsin

In this year’s campaign to celebrate the Fourth of July and all fifty states of the United States, the marketing directors at PepsiCo tried their heavy hand at humor to create a pun from the name of one of their soft drink lines. The campaign surrounding Mountain Dew is proudly named “DEWnited States,” and each can or bottle will display the name of a United State. The big reason for soda fans to participate in this campaign is the alluring prize of a prepaid gift card with $100 for anyone who can collect labels from all 50 states.

Well, it appears that Mountain Dew must have some kind of memory altering ingredient that the staff of PepsiCo’s marketing team has been drinking because the promotional ads for this campaign depict Michigan's U.P. as part of Wisconsin.

The states are a little bit too DEWnited.
The states are a little bit too DEWnited.

Look at that! Each state is obviously distinguished by different, wacky patterns, except the smaller states in the north east which are separated into regions, and the U.P. is clearly drawn as an extension of Wisconsin, like a big, ugly hat. In sixth grade, that would have cost me at least two points off on my geography test. Not only does this mistake appear in Mountain Dew’s map of the United States, but it also appears in a video promoting the state of Michigan, or half of it, at least. That means this mistake slid through TWO revision and approval processes and no one saw it. Or no one cared. 

PepsiCo has not made a move to take down any promotional graphics or videos containing this mistake since its release last Tuesday (July 9), but they have reached out to the unverified Twitter account, @UpperPeninsula, with a promise to make a label specifically for the misrepresented region. It’s unclear as to whether or not this new label will count as a Michigan bottle or a separate, bonus bottle in the contest, but at least the Midwest has hope for reparations.

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Thursday, Jul. 11th, 2019

New Bon Iver album i,i drops August 30; Hear two new songs “Faith” and “Jelmore”

Photo: Graham Tolbert
Photo: Graham Tolbert

The ever-evolving thing called Bon Iver is back, officially, and a brand new album drops in just a brisk seven weeks.

On August 30, the band will release their fourth album called i,i – a 13-track record that features a huge cast of players including contributions from James Blake, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Bruce Hornsby, Channy Leaneagh, Naeem, Velvet Negroni, Marta Salogni, Francis Starlite, Moses Sumney, TU Dance, and more.

The announcement comes with the release of two brand new tracks from i,i – “Faith” And “Jelmore." At once, it feels like classic Bon Iver with lush folk inflections and mysterious lyrical themes, but there’s experimental layers of spastic synths and glitchy samples more indicative of the band’s current vibe. What we’ve heard of the album so far feels like a culmination of all the music they’ve created over the last decade. There’s an intangible sense of completion there.


"The thirteen new songs on i,i complete a cycle: from the winter of For Emma, Forever Ago came the frenetic spring of Bon Iver, Bon Iver, and the unhinged summer of 22, A Million. Now, fall arrives early with i,i,” the press release reads. Is this the end? Is it a pivot to something different? Does it help to ask vague rhetorical questions? Probably not.

The album was recorded in part at frontman Justin Vernon’s April Base studio in Fall Creek, before finishing up at Sonic Ranch, a massive studio space in West Texas which, according to Wikipedia is “the world's largest residential recording studio complex.” 

"It feels very much like the most adult record, the most complete,” Vernon says. "It feels like when you get through all this life, when the sun starts to set, and what happens is you start gaining perspective. And then you can put that perspective into more honest, generous work.”

And as for the meaning behind i,i, Vernon said: "The title of the record can mean whatever it means to you or me. It can mean deciphering and bolstering one's identity. It can be how important the self is and how unimportant the self is, how we're all connected."

Anyway, last time they dropped a record, the rollout included murals all over the world, listening parties, visual teasers, all kinds of wild stuff. So be on the lookout for what’s coming next.

Lyric Video for “Faith”

Lyric Video for “Jelmore”

i,i Track List

1. Yi
2. iMi
3. We
4. Holyfields,
5. Hey, Ma
6. U (Man Like)
7. Naeem
8. Jelmore
9. Faith
10. Marion
11. Salem
12. Sh'Diah
13. RABi

You can pre-order the album now, if that’s your kinda thing:

Previous New Music

Hey, Ma

U (Man Like)


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Monday, Jul. 8th, 2019

Simple Steps to Protect Your Skin From the Summer Sun

While winter's beauty is lovely, Wisconsin really shines in the summer. Spending time outdoors creates family memories as you enjoy farmers markets or county fairs, spending time on the water, or just playing in your own backyard. However, it’s important to take steps to protect your family’s skin from sun damage and skin cancer.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer, which is the abnormal growth of skin cells, usually results from overexposure to the sun and harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Although skin that’s most exposed accounts for most cases, well-covered areas of the body, such as your palms or genital area, also can be affected. All skin pigmentations – dark and light – are subject to skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in America, according to the American Cancer Society. Each year, 5.4 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancers, and more than 76,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, kills more than 10,000 Americans each year – nearly 75% of all skin cancer deaths.

What can you do to prevent skin cancer?

Leading medical experts, including those at Mayo Clinic, recommend these tips for preventing skin cancer:

• Avoid the sun between 10am and 4pm. These are the peak hours of sun strength in North America, even in the winter and on cloudy days. About 80% of life-long sun exposure occurs before the age of 18. Make sure your children are protected, as it is the most important time to prevent skin cancer.

• Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 throughout the entire year. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating. Use a generous amount of sunscreen on all exposed skin, including your lips, the tips of your ears, and the backs of your hands and neck.

• Wear protective clothing. Hats with wide brims and clothing that covers your arms and legs are helpful. Sunscreen doesn’t block all UV rays. These rays cause skin cancer. Don’t forget sunglasses. Look for sunglasses that block both types of UV radiation: UVA and UVB rays.

• Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds operate with UV lights, damaging your skin and potentially leading to cancer.

• Check your skin. Examine your skin often for new skin growths, or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps, and birthmarks. If you notice differences, talk with your health care team.

What type of sunscreen should you use?

Consider the pros and cons for different applications, including:

• Physical blockers: These sunscreens contain mineral ingredients to deflect UV rays away from your skin. Look for a sunscreen with 6-10% zinc oxide for the broadest UVA and UVB ray protection.

• Creams: If you have dry skin, you might prefer a cream, especially for your face.

• Lotions: Lotions often are preferred for application on large areas. Lotions tend to be thinner and less greasy than creams.

• Gels: Gels work best in hairy areas, such as the scalp or chest.

• Sticks: Sticks are useful when applying sunscreen around the eyes.

• Sprays: Sprays are easy to apply on children. Because it’s difficult to know how well you’re applying it, spray a generous and even coating. To prevent inhaling the product, don’t spray near the face or mouth. Check the wind direction before spraying. This sunscreen is the least recommended as it is difficult to know how much has been applied to the skin.

Who’s most at risk for skin cancer?

Anyone can get skin cancer, but those at a higher risk include people who have a heavy exposure to UV rays, lighter skin, family history of skin cancer, prevalent moles, numerous severe sunburns in the past, a weakened immune system, or those who live in sunny or high-altitude climates.

Contact your health care team if you have concerns about skin abnormalities. Skin cancer is treatable when caught in its early stages. Have fun as the warm days roll in, but always keep skin cancer prevention in mind.

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Wednesday, Jul. 3rd, 2019

Romeo and Juliet at Lake Wissota State Park July 13

Summit Players Theatre will return for a fifth season of sharing Shakespeare with children and adults alike, but this time, they’re acting out their first tragedy: Romeo and Juliet. Throughout the Summer, Summit Players Theatre will be performing Romeo and Juliet across Wisconsin in various different State Parks as well as providing a 45-minute workshop before the play called “Playing with Shakespeare: Get Outside with Will.” The workshop is intended for children and “fun adults” to help everyone understand Shakespeare’s language and characters, as well as learn a little bit about the man himself.

➜ Coming to the Chippewa Valley on July 13 at Lake Wissota State Park (family campground picnic area) | Workshop 5:30pm | Show 7:00pm 

The play itself will be roughly an hour and a half long, and each performance will be completely free in an effort to fulfill the company’s wish to make access to Shakespeare affordable and understandable. The company founder and Executive Director, Hannah Klapperich-Mueller, assures that “this show may be different from the comedies we’ve performed before, but we’re offering audiences the same Summit Players experience they’ve come to know and love.”

Summit Players Theatre’s 2019 season is supported in part by grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board and Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin. 

You can find them online at or on Facebook.

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Tuesday, Jul. 2nd, 2019

12 Cool and Quirky Wisconsin Roadside Attractions to Visit this Summer

Image: James St. John | CC BY 2.0
Crystal Cave • Image: James St. John | CC BY 2.0

For your entertainment and driving convenience, I have put together a route containing some of the weirdest and quirkiest roadside attractions this great state of Wisconsin has to offer, and believe me, it was very difficult to narrow it down to just four ...

1. Crystal Cave

W965 WI-29, Spring Valley, WI 54767 | 50.6 Miles from Eau Claire

The first attraction on this list is Crystal Cave, a family-friendly cave in Spring Valley that was discovered in 1881 by two, young brothers George and William Vanasse. Since 1942, Crystal Cave has offered tours through its dark, dank depths featuring interesting and mysterious rock formations, a black-out chamber, and unexpected life thriving in the underground. Besides the thrill of exploring a rich world beneath our own, there’s a cute, little gift shop, too!

2.  Railroad Memories Museum

424 N. Front St, Spooner, WI 54801 | 81.9 Miles from Eau Claire

Spooner, and the area around it, is filled with interesting things to look at and visit such as the Railroad Memories Museum. The development of railroads in Western Wisconsin began in the late 1800’s in Hudson, WI with the North Wisconsin Railroad Co. and connected most of the Midwest. By 1882, the Division Headquarters had moved to Spooner, and with time, this town became an extremely important hub for railway transportation in the Midwest as well as an economic center by employing roughly 600 people in its heyday. Railroad Memories Museum was constructed in honor of the impact shipping and commuter trains made on the region, and the vintage trains and various other items are well worth a look.

3. Big Dick’s Buckhorn Inn

105 Walnut St, Spooner, WI 54801 | 84.5 Miles from Eau Claire

Within Spooner also lies Big Dick’s Buckhorn Inn and three weird surprises. Mixed in among the many stuffed mounts, you will notice a stuffed calf with two heads and a stuffed saber-toothed tiger! Not only that, but the men’s restroom was once visited by President John F. Kennedy! I can’t guarantee that either of those unique animals were once living, but when I called the inn to confirm whether or not it was graced by JFK, Jacob Wahleichner, an employee at Big Dick’s Buckhorn Inn, says “it’s true, he was here sometime on March 18th 1960. [He] stopped in while campaigning.” So, if you love taxidermy, or history, or you’re just in the mood for a good beer, stop into Big Dick’s Buckhorn Inn on your way to the next attraction on this list!

4. Giant Ax and Arrow

US Hwy 2, Brule, WI (on the south side by the intersection of Anderson/Wills Rd) | 150 Miles from Eau Claire

If you’re looking for some interesting and potentially hilarious photo opportunities, drive over to Brule for a giant arrow sticking out of the ground and a giant ax stuck in a log on the roadside. These two enormous statues provide great inspiration for illusions such as a tiny lumberjack and a warrior struck down in battle. Or, if you’re not interested in lying down in the roadside grass, these beauties can be seen clearly from the road, too.

5. Chainsaw Totem Pole Forest

County Hwy M, Medford, WI (on the corner of Division Drive) | 72. 8 Miles from Eau Claire

The last stop on our tour of under-appreciated, roadside attractions lands us in Medford, just over an hour outside of Eau Claire. Off of county highway M, to the right if you’ve been looping around counter clockwise, is a small forest of 21 poles with roughly 400 chainsaws sticking out of them. Gordy Lekies, the man who created this quirky piece of art, stuck these chainsaws into bare, wooden poles in all sorts of different angles and heights like branches on actual trees, so if you’re not too tired after driving all day, I would certainly suggest stopping by. Wisconsin certainly is something to behold.

Here's some more cool places!

1. Jurustic Park

Image: Jim | CC BY-SA 2.0

M222 Sugar Bush Ln Marshfield, WI 54449 | 87.7 Miles from Eau Claire

Home to several extinct, iron-made creatures that inhabited McMillan Marsh, Jurustic Park is a beast of a sculpture garden. Explore the park and view the sculptures all made from repurposed antique objects as well as a cute, little Hobbit Hole because why not? You can even take the kids and leave your tranquilizer gun at home because, unlike Jurassic Park, these creatures aren’t harmful.

2. Dr. Evermore’s Sculpture Park – Forevertron

S7703 US-12, North Freedom, WI 53951 | 143 Miles from Eau Claire

Fashioned by Dr. Evermor (alias of Tom Every, the sculptor) the Forevertron is an enormous, 320-foot-tall scrap metal sculpture that looks like a repair station for steampunk airships. Surrounded by a collection of gun turrets, huge insectoid robots, and fanciful, science-fiction Victorian architecture, the Forevertron has inspired many scrap metal artists around the country.

3. Viking Church

Town Line Rd, Washington, WI 54246 | 289 Miles from Eau Claire (includes a ferry ride)

Known as Stave Churches, these multi-gabled, pagan-architecture-inspired churches were common in Scandinavia during the medieval ages. The Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Washington Island built this authentic replica in 1993 and it’s currently used for weddings, ceremonies and other gatherings. If you visit, just be sure not to trip on Mjollnir stuck in the ground out back.

4. Moccasin Bar

15820 US Hwy 63, Hayward, WI 54843 | 107 Miles from Eau Claire

If you haven’t had enough of taxidermy from Big Dick’s Buckhorn Inn, Hayward’s Moccasin Bar is a treasure-trove of taxidermy. It proudly displays the world’s third largest muskie as its crowning piece, and it also includes fun scenes depicted by animals, such as a rabbit cheating at a game of poker, a raccoon as the victor of a boxing match, and a courtroom with a wolf presiding as judge.

5. The Pink Elephant

4995 Co Rd V, DeForest, WI 53532 | 163 Miles from Eau Claire

Pink and proud in front of a variety of gas stations since the early '60s, this elephant has become quite the icon. Now known as Andy’s Pink Elephant, or just “Pinkie” for short, this adorable, pink animal has stood by the roadside welcoming guests to his gas station with a big smile beneath his trunk. The gas station even sells pink elephant souvenirs to show off back home!

6. Lawn Ornament Extravaganza

4531 S Lake Dr, Cudahy, WI 53110 | 252 Miles from Eau Claire

So far, this list has consisted of locales with one large ... thing, but a Cudahy resident decided one wasn’t nearly enough. Their attraction is complete with a skull, Hamburglar, and, of course, the casual Cadillac sinking into a gravel pit.

7. Chalet of the Golden Fleece


618 2nd St, New Glarus, WI 53574 | 191 Miles from Eau Claire

Home to the worldly collection of Edwin Barlow, this museum displays a jeweled watch once owned by King Louis XVI, Gregorian chants on parchment dating from 1485, and plenty of Swiss related collectables, like a fancy 300-year-old Swiss table.

8. House on the Rock

5754 WI-23, Spring Green, WI 53588 | 165 Miles from Eau Claire

Last but certainly not least is one of the most famous roadside attractions in the entire Midwest, and darn near too obvious to list. The House on the Rock is so bizarre, magical, and mysterious that fantasy/horror writer Neil Gaiman included a description of this attraction in his novel “American Gods,” but found that he had to “tone down [his] description of it and leave things out…to make it believable.” Between the phantom orchestra, the carousel, and the Infinity Room, this is so much more than a “house.”

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