Monday, Sep. 21st, 2009

A Semester at Sea goes swimmingly

The members of local Dashboard Confessional-inspired trio A Semester at Sea haven’t even known one another for more than ten weeks, but they’ve already recorded an eight-track EP, played an overbooked show at Oakwood Mall’s Hot Topic, toured Wisconsin and Minnesota for a week without the use of electronics, and hit #2 on Pure Volume.

If it sounds like more than just a fluke, it’s probably because of ASaS’ canny ability to wear the hip hop-est outfits for the emo kids. Whether it’s forlornly strumming acoustics to an Auto-Tune warble, or sardonically belting: “The playing cards are gone / But your poker face is on,” the band has ‘crossover success’ written all over it. Kyle Culver states in an email: “We’re just all about progress, really… like a ‘where do we go from here’ type of attitude.”

Prolific? Yes. Another EP is scheduled for release this December. So hopefully the band lasts longer than its name implies.

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Sunday, Sep. 20th, 2009
Saturday, Sep. 19th, 2009

Saturday: International Fall Festival

Last year, a record 20,000 patrons scattered the streets of downtown to enjoy the annual celebration that has come to be known as the city’s biggest event. International Fall Festival is a commemoration of culture, as participants have a taste of the diverse worldly food, music, dance, and heritage that can be found in the Chippewa Valley.

This year’s festival is slated for Sept. 19, from about 10am to 6pm. The event will once again feature such popular features as the RCU Parade of Nations, which kicks off at 3pm with floats, bands, flags, and performers trekking Barstow Street. The Xcel Energy World Stage will once again draw people toward the Four Corners parking lot for musicians and performers of all kinds.

Make sure you come on down to 17 S. Barstow Street and say hello to all us Volume One people. We’ll have lots of local merch for sale.

Also on Saturday: Here We Grow Again Children's Sale, Walk4Life, 3rd Annual Apples & Art Tour, Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum's 75th Anniversary, Oktoberfest, Caddie Woodlawn, EverGreen Grass Band, Always... Patsy Cline, and Farms + Panda Teeth.

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Friday, Sep. 18th, 2009
Thursday, Sep. 17th, 2009

Dodgeball is coming

Go dodgeball! The Eau Claire Parks and Recreation has added Dodgeball to their list of activities. With the decline in men’s basketball over the years and the gym space available, the decision to add dodgeball was simple. Recreation Aid Jenny Vick said, “We thought the community might like dodgeball and it’s a popular activity throughout the Wisconsin and Minnesota area.”

The league will use a Gator Skin dodgeball, which we all know from our experience in gym class is both durable and lightweight, great for whipping at someone, but not so hot if you get wailed in the face with. Vick said only a few teams have signed up so far, but hopes more will follow. The bombardment league needs eight teams and they are currently offering two winter sessions, each eight weeks.

“We want people to know it’s open. There can be all guy teams, teams with mostly girls, and anyone can be on the floor playing; there aren’t any restrictions for that,” says Vick. Each night will consist of a best of seven games match-up between two teams of six (players can rotate in and out between games, if needed).

DETAILS: Parks and Rec Dodgeball League • Tuesdays, Nov. 3 to Dec. 22, or Jan. 5 to Feb. 23 • South Middle School gym, 2115 Mitscher Ave., Eau Claire • game times are 6:30, 7, 7:30, and 8pm • $160 a team • ages 18 and up • 839-5032 • Registration required by Oct. 23 and Dec. 11

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Wednesday, Sep. 16th, 2009

Local Hero: Joan McVinnie

Heroism comes in many forms. Some heroes run into burning buildings to save lives. Some heroes leap in to raging rivers to save puppies. And some heroes gather up all of the world’s nuclear weapons, fly into space, and hurl them into the sun. But Joan McVinnie? She works at the McDonalds in Chippewa Falls next to the Pizza Hut. And she’s done so for 30 friggin’ years. From the Chippewa Herald

  • Yes, that’s right, McVinnie has worked at McDonald’s for three decades. She reported for work last Thursday to start her fourth decade.
  • “We have such a great bunch of people here. Everyone gets along,” said McVinnie, who was somewhat embarrassed at the fuss being made over her when she returned to work.

Wow, hats off to Joan. Obviously, she’s lovin’ it. (I’m assuming the name is just a coincidence.) The first job I ever had was a summer landscaping gig. And I did it for about seven years. I planted a lot of the Chippewa Valley’s grass in that time, not to mention a respectable amount of charming shrubbery.

I haven’t held a lot of jobs in my lifetime (four), and I liked all of them. But when I was landscaping, there were days I spent with my nostrils caked with dirt, dehydrated from the hot-hot sun, with 150,000 gnats swarming around me like a living blizzard of evil. I do not believe these days strengthened my character. I believe these days strengthened my arsenal of dirty angry swear words.

What’s the worse job you ever had?

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Tuesday, Sep. 15th, 2009

UPDATED: Carson Park dorm a no go

We talked about the “Carson Park Tower Group” on last Friday’s Big Week – the group that wants to build a seven story private dormitory by Carson Park, right behind the (totally awesome) Menomonie Street Dairy Queen. The idea is to take on (and monetize) UWEC’s student dorm overflow, which right now is handled by local hotels. The weird part is that former Wis. senator – and current fabulous beard wearer – Dave Zien is their spokesman. Not familiar with Dave Zien? Here’s what internationally respected news source has to say:

  • He was a Wisconsin Senator for 18 years, beginning in 1988. He’s been inducted into every Motorcycle Hall of Fame in this country. Dave is a Purple Heart Vietnam veteran, a motorcycle freedom fighter until he dies and a genius. He’s one of the most passionate men I’ve ever met, and his fervor is directly centered on the following: Motorcycling, America, Veterans, God, family and Guns. Read more! (Seriously, read more.)

Anyways, according to, the Dairy Queen Tower is not going to might not happen (read the comments below). Last night, Eau Claire’s plan commission voted down a request to rezone the proposed property (6-2). The commission said the project would involve “too many changes” before it would jive with the city's comprehensive plan. In other words, a big friggin’ tower in front of the city’s largest park is a no-no.

But man, can you imagine how many Dilly Bars that Dairy Queen could sell with a seven story dorm right behind it? It boggles the mind. I wonder where the “Carson Park Tower Group” will look next?

P.S. See if you can spot 10 things wrong one giant thing wrong with the picture above.

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Monday, Sep. 14th, 2009

Fanny Hill: Just kidding!

Hey, remember when Fanny Hill said it was closing down its theater operation, citing poor attendance due to the woeful economy? Well … just kidding! Apparently they’ve enjoyed enough of an increase in show attendance since late July to say they’re strongly considering running shows in 2010. Not sure what happened in just a couple of months to produce such a surge in attendance. We won’t act like a bunch of doubting Thomases (Thomasi?) and suggest that maybe people started buying tickets because they figured it was their last chance – instead, we’ll just be happy that our local dinner theater might give it a go after all. From the L-T:

  • "We are planning for 2010 shows but are not ready at this time to say 100 percent that we will be able to produce and perform them," co-owner Dennis Heyde said Friday in an e-mail to the Leader-Telegram. "If the increased trend continues, we will perform."
  • Executive Director Don Hodgins said he is relieved the theater is getting a second chance. He and his wife, Lois, have operated Fanny Hill Dinner Theatre for more than 30 years. "Theater is so much a fabric of the community," he said.

Fanny Hill’s website lists a bunch of shows for 2010, so they’re at least planning for it. But don’t forget, as far as we know, they whole property is still up for sale. So if you’ve got $1.3 million laying around, and you're bored … just think about it.

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Ellsworth kid wants to be governor

To be honest, I expected one of the Leinenkugel brothers to run in Wisconsin’s next gubernatorial race – what with their strong local ties and nice hair – but sadly, 2010 just isn’t the year. I mean, Dick’s already Wisconsin’s Secretary of Commerce (which I’m sure is an important job), so how hard would it be to parlay the Leinenkugel family’s Chippewa Valley beer royalty into a statewide political one? Sounds easy to me.

But I’ll keep dreaming. Just like Jared Christiansen, the 17 year old kid from Ellsworth who recently tossed his hat into the governor race ring. Man, when I was 17, I was still laughing at the word “gubernatorial,” which I totally don’t do anymore. According to

  • Despite being only 17, Christiansen says he is ready for the state's top job.
  • "I'm very responsible, my parents are actually over-the-road truck drivers so they're gone 2 weeks at a time and I have to take care of the house, clean the house, I have three pets, I do my own schooling at home and I work 40 hours a week as a manager at McDonald's," says Christiansen, democratic governor candidate.
  • … He says his priorities are to create jobs, expand education and keep taxes down, but his biggest focus is on health care.

Well, good luck to Jared, but we’ll be watching Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton’s campaign pretty closely, since she’s the chair of the Wisconsin Arts Board and all. Not sure what it might mean for arts in Wisconsin if Barb gets elected, but it’ll probably mean more than if this guy got the job. And check out who wants Barb’s job.

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Friday, Sep. 11th, 2009

This Weekend: Go get Active & Alive in Altoona

This weekend, Active & Alive in Altoona is hosting their 2nd annual health and wellness “hobby fair.” It’s actually pretty cool that Altoona has this – a small town, community-wide wellness event. It runs on Sunday from noon to 4pm at the Hobb's Sports Complex (2300 Spooner Ave.). They’ll have lots of food, like grilled chicken and fruit kabobs, and they’ll be giving away prizes like a TREK 7000 bike and a one year gym membership. (It’s all healthy stuff, get it?) Also, the first of four community walks (one for the next four Saturdays) – meet at the 10th Street Park pavilion today at 8:30am. And there’ll be all the normal fair stuff like vendors, activities, and exhibits. Admission is free. Here’s the website.

Side event! Part of the fair is a kickball game on Sunday pitting Volume One against the City of Altoona. Yep, we’re that good. Not really. We’ll be playing Altoona city officials and staff. So come down to the Cinder City Park, on Spooner Ave. at 1pm and witness the kickball fireworks firsthand.

Also on Saturday: a winery’s Fall Fest, a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament, a Rosemary Clooney show, Yeshuapolooza, the 10th Annual Clearwater Beer Festival, a New North String Band show, a Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra show, a performance of Always... Patsy Cline, and a rock triple punch: South Farwell + The Excellent Adventure + The Jim Pullman Band.

And on Sunday: Ellen Mahaffy's photo exhibition, celebrate domestic partnerships with Fair Wisconsin, an NFL grill out bash with the Swing Crew, The "World Famous" Lipizzaner Stallions (2 shows), and showings of Terror From Beneath the Earth.

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