Monday, Feb. 6th, 2017

Lakeside Comfort Food: Wissota Café offers American classics

LAKESIDE EATS. The newly opened Wissota Café near Chippewa Falls specializes in American comfort food, including (at top, from left to right) a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings, a turkey-spinach wrap with fries, and the popular hot beef sandwich. The café is attached to a BP gas station.
LAKESIDE EATS. The newly opened Wissota Café near Chippewa Falls specializes in American comfort food, including (from left to right) a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings, a turkey-spinach wrap with fries, and the popular hot beef sandwich. The café is attached to a BP gas station.

Whether you’re looking for a new spot to get breakfast with friends or you’re compiling a list of the best sammies in the area, there’s a café on the southern tip of Lake Wissota that you should check out: Wissota Café. 

Even on the coldest of days, Wissota Café is filled with warmth and cheeriness.  The walls are adorned with vintage photos of boaters on Lake Wissota as well as the Lake Wissota Dam, and the tables are clothed in delicate black-and-white tablecloths reminiscent of the lake.  Co-owner Tim Bliek explains, “It’s a huge benefit (being so close to the lake). It offers great visibility and good summer traffic.” 

Wissota Café is a hidden gem attached to the Wissota Express on the south end of Lake Wissota; Tim and Lynn Bliek own the café as well as the BP gas station.  As relatable as they are kind, Tim and Lynn strive to create an atmosphere that is warm and welcoming. “We want to provide a good product with friendly service and a pleasant atmosphere,” Lynn explains. “It’s very important – we want people to feel at home.” 

Wissota Café features a menu designed by Teresa Rosendahl, who is also the manager of the café. “Teresa has 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry,” Tim explains. Nodding in agreement, Lynn adds, “She’s done so much for the café.” 

When you look at the menu, the trio’s dedication to the café shows – the menu offers up a variety of classic American comfort foods such as Eggs Benedict, burgers, and sandwiches.  “The hot beef meal and our ‘2 Farm Fresh Eggs’ are the most popular items on the menu,” Tim says.  In addition, they have a special every day, and they recently began serving all-day breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays due to popular demand. 

Another highlight of the menu are the signature hash browns.  “Our hash browns have spinach, quinoa, and garlic cheese pearls in them,” Lynn explains.  “Most people like them, but we also offer American fries for customers who aren’t sure about it,” she adds with a laugh.

In addition to the café, the freshly cooked breakfast and lunch sandwiches are available in the gas station’s convenience store for those looking to grab and go.  Lynn attributes part of their success to the convenience store: “We have many regular customers, and a lot of them go to both the convenience store and the café,“ she says.  “One of our goals is cross-promotion – we’re open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch,” Tim explains.

As for the future, Tim and Lynn have big plans for the café. “We will be opening a drive-through window for the café in the next few weeks,” Tim said.

Some of the long-term goals the pair has are to offer outside dining in summer, to deliver food to the boat landing, and to open up after hours for small events. 

With that said, give Wissota Café a shot the next time you’re messaging your friends about where you should get breakfast. “We hope to provide good customer service with a smile, and a pleasant and homey atmosphere,” Tim said.

Wissota Café • 17255 County Highway X, Chippewa Falls • (715) 861-5615

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Saturday, Feb. 4th, 2017

Restored for the First Time: Habitat for Humanity poised to open store for recycled building supplies

DOORWAY TO DONATIONS. Volunteers work at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in St. Louis in 2011. This spring the Chippewa Valley Habitat chapter plans to open a similar store selling new and used building supplies. Image: U.S. Marine Corps
DOORWAY TO DONATIONS. Volunteers work at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in St. Louis in 2011. This spring the Chippewa Valley Habitat chapter plans to open a similar store selling new and used building supplies. Image: U.S. Marine Corps

Building or remodeling your own house may soon help Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity build more homes for local families who need them.

As early as this spring, the Eau Claire-based branch of the global home-building charity plans to open a ReStore, a donor-driven retailer of recycled building materials, says Aaron Czappa, the group’s executive director. Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity is in the process of purchasing the former Variety Office Products building, 145 N. Clairemont Ave., near the intersection of Clairemont Avenue and Menomonie Street.

“We’re moving forward extremely quickly. We’re very excited because we’ve been planning this for a number of years.” – Aaron Czappa, Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity, on the soon-to-open ReStore

Czappa says the group is aiming to open the ReStore by May 1 – a goal that will require help from many supporters and volunteers. “We’re moving forward extremely quickly,” he says. “We’re very excited because we’ve been planning this for a number of years.”

While there’s never been a ReStore in the Chippewa Valley, they’re been popping up around the country in recent years: There are about 1,500 Habitat chapters nationwide, and as of 2015 there were 860 Habitat ReStores, which had gross revenues of $382 million. (The closest ReStores to the Chippewa Valley are in Rice Lake and Roberts.)

All funds raised by the ReStore will go toward Habitat’s local mission: building homes for families who meet income requirements, have a need for better housing, and are willing to partner via “sweat equity” and mortgage payments. Since it was founded in 1991, Habitat’s Chippewa Valley chapter has built 43 homes within a 30-mile radius of Eau Claire. Most recently, last fall it completed a home in Menomonie for a family with five young boys who had previously been crammed into a two-bedroom apartment.

“We are looking forward to building additional homes and completing an increased number of home repair projects and workshops each year,” Czappa says. “Additionally, we are also excited to be able to use the store to become more visible in the community and spread the mission of Habitat for Humanity.”

The store will also help customers, donors, and the community as a whole in other ways, Czappa adds. Customers will get good used products at reduced prices; donors will save money through tax deductions and reduced trash bills; and the community benefits because less waste will end up in landfills.

The ReStore model, Czappa explains, is similar to that of donor-supplied retailers such as Goodwill and Savers, except the store will sell only construction-related materials, not knickknacks or thrift items. At the ReStore you’ll find furniture and appliances, as well as all manner of building materials, both new and used. Czappa says Habitat’s existing relationships with local builders, plumbers, heating and cooling contractors, and other professionals will help it gather used and surplus items.

Czappa acknowledges that the approximately 8,000-square-foot Variety Office Products building is somewhat smaller than an average ReStore, so expansion or the opening of a second ReStore, potentially in Menomonie, are options if the space gets crowded.

He also acknowledges that the ReStore will in some ways be similar to Hope Gospel Mission’s Building Hope, 2108 Western Ave., which also sells used and new building materials. While there will be some overlap in what is sold, Czappa says competition will be kept to a minimum, in part because of the size of the Chippewa Valley metro area. Furthermore, the Habitat chapter may explore ways to partner with other nonprofits: For example, products donated to the ReStore that aren’t building materials could be passed on to other charities.

While Czappa is looking forward to opening the store, he notes that a lot of work must occur before it happens. As May 1 approaches, Habitat will need many volunteers, both to staff the ReStore and to relocate inventory that has been stockpiled in several storage units. Habitat is also seeking a donated box truck or cargo van to make pick-ups and deliveries. (Until a truck is secured, donations will be accepted via drop-off, although dates and times haven’t been established yet.)

The project has already gotten several big boosts: In particular, Czappa credited U.S. Bank will providing Habitat with a grant and Citizens Bank in Altoona for helping finance the project. With the new building comes new expenses, so Habitat will soon launch a capital campaign to both pay the mortgage and build even more new homes.

Learn more about Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity by visiting cvh4h.org, where you can register for email updates, or by calling (715) 833-8993. To learn more about Habitat ReStores, visit habitat.org/restores.

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Wednesday, Jan. 25th, 2017

Sweep Away Hunger at Beginners' Curling Tourney

Image: Felix, CC 2.0
Image: Felix, CC 2.0

If you’ve never tried the icy winter sport curling but have always wanted to, you’re in luck – in fact, you could be poised to win a tournament! How many beginners can say that? The Community Table is holding a one-day charity bonspiel called Sweep Away Hunger on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Eau Claire Curling Club, 5530 Fairview Drive. (Lingo alert: A “bonspiel” is a tournament and “sweeping” is something curlers do with special brooms to keep their rocks moving down the ice.) To make things interesting – and fair – “participants must have essentially no curling experience,” organizers say. The bonspiel can accommodate 16 teams of four players each (although a fifth player is recommended as a substitute). The fee is $500 per team, and proceeds will go the Community Table, which provides free meals to those in need in Eau Claire. Even though the tournament is for newbies, participants are required to attend one of two training sessions to learn the basics of curling. (Basic No. 1: It’s played on ice, which can be pretty slippery.) The sessions are noon to 2pm on Feb. 11 and Feb. 18. To learn more about how you can have fun while helping feed the hungry, call (715) 835-4977 or email kevin@thecommunitytable.org.

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Mondovi Artist Revitalizes Ancient Encaustic Form

WAX ON, WAX OFF. Mondovi artist Kay Geraghty’s encaustic painting technique employs fast-setting hot wax and pigments.
WAX ON, WAX OFF. Mondovi artist Kay Geraghty’s encaustic painting technique employs fast-setting hot wax and pigments.

Kay Geraghty spent her career behind a camera lens. Ask and the retired photographer will assure you that she can’t paint in oil, acrylics, or watercolor. She worries that her online class on realistic portraiture drawing will be above her skill level.

Walk into the Volume One Gallery and marvel at the mixed-media paintings gracing the walls. Look into the eyes of children, siblings, mothers, fathers from Cuba, Africa, Australia – even Wisconsin. Imagine yourself on an African safari as you walk by magnificent landscapes and gaze at exotic wildlife you’ve only ever seen in zoos.

Geraghty
Kay Geraghty

Glance at the signature scratched simply in black on the base of each breathtaking piece and realize that these paintings, full of texture and life like nothing you’ve ever seen, are the works of Kay Geraghty. The same Kay Geraghty who can’t paint in traditional mediums to save her life.

The truth is, Geraghty can paint. Well. She shies away from today’s staples like watercolors and acrylics in favor of a different and decidedly more difficult medium: encaustic.

The encaustic tradition dates back to the early centuries A.D. when it was used in Egyptian mummy portraits. A German painter inspired the rebirth of the encaustic form in the early 20th century, and a few modern artists still practice it today. Also known as hot wax painting, encaustic painting uses heat to fuse beeswax and resin (encaustic medium) in layers, starting with clear medium and moving to pigmented medium as the painting progresses. Detail work is done with brushes, pallet knives, or any other tool the artist prefers. The medium sets just seconds after its heat source is removed, making the process fast-paced and exciting.

Thankfully, the medium can be reheated and altered if the fused product doesn’t meet the artist’s aesthetic expectations. However, notes Geraghty, reheating can be as much a curse as a blessing.

“If you’re really happy with how the painting looks, you have to be really careful fusing because the fire will move it,” she says. “You never know what you’re going to end up with.”

Geraghty, of Mondovi, discovered encaustic painting through her photography. She met Minneapolis-based photographer and encaustic wiz Clare O’Neill at a photography seminar in the Twin Cities. The two started talking and struck up a friendship. Geraghty ended up spending a weekend with O’Neill learning the basics of encaustic.

Since then, she’s fallen in love with the encaustic medium.

It is fun. It’s fun. It’s fast. You can make mistakes and then scrape it off,” she says.

Now the Chippewa Valley’s encaustic expert, Geraghty has created an impressive collection of original artwork. Her art is inspired by her photographs, many from transcontinental adventures to places such as Africa and Australia.

“They’re from my travels,” she notes. “They go back to my photography. All of them are parts or composites of pictures I have taken.”

Most modern artists, Geraghty included, are not encaustic purists. Her paintings are primary encaustic mixed-media, using materials other than the beeswax-resin medium including watercolor paints, oil sticks, India ink, pan pastels, and pieces of photographs she’s taken. She often uses tissue paper for backgrounds, giving her paintings a unique tactile quality.

Perhaps the most unorthodox material Geraghty incorporates into her encaustic pieces is roofing tar. She favors the tar for its deep brown hue and uses it to color borders and bodies in most of her work. She paints on panel boards custom-cut by her husband. When she finishes a piece, he creates a frame. Each frame is tailored to best fit the size and orientation of her painting. 

Geraghty continues to explore the encaustic medium and search for a niche. She wants to try her hand at photorealism and just started an online class on realistic portraitures. This year, she plans to do an encaustic series on the Wisconsin Barn Quilt Tour.

Check out Kay Geraghty’s work at “Encaustic Painting: The Fusion of Hot Wax and Mixed-Media” at the Volume One Gallery, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire. Art will be on display through March 4.

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Tuesday, Jan. 24th, 2017

Library's New Makerspace Offers Chance to Explore

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX. The Dabble Box (bottom photo) is a new makerspace at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire. During a recent open house, 10-year-old Ryan Grzyb (top) played a video game with do-it-yourself Play-Doh controllers. The same system can be used to play a virtual piano with bananas (middle).
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX. The Dabble Box is a new makerspace at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire. During a recent open house, 10-year-old Ryan Grzyb (top) played a video game with do-it-yourself Play-Doh controllers. The same system can be used to play a virtual piano with bananas (below).

If you’re looking to pick up a new skill, discover a new talent, or dust off a rusty one, then the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library’s new makerspace, the Dabble Box, has just the tools to help you find your spark and craft up your dreams.

While there are several places in the Chippewa Valley with a do-it-yourself multipurpose programming space, most are found in schools or geared toward manufacturing and come with a cost. With the Dabble Box, folks of all ages get free hands-on learning opportunities where they can explore a number of areas.

Thanks to many generous donors, the Dabble Box offers a 3D printer, vinyl cutter, and LEGO Mindstorms robots along with a variety of smaller robots and coding equipment. There are also more common household items such as sewing machines, yarn, and basic crafting supplies. In the near future, you might even be able to check out kits on knitting, coding, learning music, and more. The Dabble Box is located behind the information and reference area on the library's main floor in a room that previously housed a dozen public Internet computers, which have been relocated.

So how did the name “Dabble Box” come about? According to Isa Small, the library’s programming and communications services manager, it wasn’t an easy task. “Our team discussed dozens of names while trying to define the space as it is now while still leaving room for how it might grow,” Small said. “Eventually, we settled on ‘Dabble’ because we already had some name recognition with DIY Dabble, our monthly craft program for adults and because it captures the essence of what we’re striving to achieve: a space where customers can play, make, and share. We want learning to be a fun experience.”

This new makerspace will enhance your library-going experience on several levels. Many folks visit the library to check out books, movies, or games to take home and enjoy. They may also listen to lectures, enjoy artwork, or take part in book clubs. With the new makerspace, your library-going experience can also include hands-on understanding with opportunities to ask questions and socialize with others dabbling alongside with you.

“We want to foster a culture of creativity and innovation,” Small said. “What we really specialize in is connecting people with ideas whether they are read in a book, or inspired by a craft program, or shared by another customer working on a project in the Dabble Box.”

There are definitely lots of cool things in store for the Dabble Box. According to Small, the sky’s the limit! In February, there will be more than 40 hours of open lab time along with a number of programs with specific projects. As the makerspace continues to grow, Small and her team hope to get more community members and organizations involved in sharing their knowledge and expertise in order to diversify the programming opportunities.

The next time you visit the library, be sure to check out the new makerspace where you can take dabbling to a whole new level by freeing your imagination, meeting new people, and uncovering the creative genius inside you.

For more information about the Dabble Box, and to see a schedule of open lab hours, visit www.ecpubliclibrary.info/dabble-box-makerspace/. A full calendar of open labs and project-specific programs can be found in the library's newsletter.

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Monday, Jan. 23rd, 2017

Search for Transit Hub Site Narrows to Downtown Lot

The Eau Claire City Council recently approved a resolution giving Oregon, Wisconsin-based Gorman and Co. the exclusive right to negotiate with the city to build a transit center on a city-owned parking lot on Farwell Street, next to the historic Schlegelmilch House.
The Eau Claire City Council recently approved a resolution giving Oregon, Wisconsin-based Gorman and Co. the exclusive right to negotiate with the city to build a transit center on a city-owned parking lot on Farwell Street, next to the historic Schlegelmilch House.

A company that built a mixed-use public transit center in La Crosse that includes apartments and commercial space is in negotiations to build a similar facility in downtown Eau Claire.

The Eau Claire City Council recently approved a resolution giving Oregon, Wisconsin-based Gorman and Co. the exclusive right to negotiate with the city to build a transit center on a city-owned parking lot on Farwell Street, next to the historic Schlegelmilch House. The site, also sometimes referred to as the Wood Motors lot, was one of nine potential transit center sites identified in a study completed last year. If and when it is built, the new transit center would replace the current structure, a Spartan concrete-block building on the 400 block of South Farwell, which was meant to be temporary when it was built in 1984.

“It’s a somewhat unique facility, being a combination transit transfer facility, mixed-use, and housing.” – Jay Winzenz, City of Eau Claire finance director, on the proposed transit center

Jackie Pavelski, chairwoman of the city’s Transit Commission, said the current bus hub – which is unheated and lacks restrooms or other amenities – no longer meets the city’s needs and is considered an eyesore by some. 

Last year, the city issued a request for proposal to developers to come up with plans to build a new hub for the city’s bus system. Gorman was the only company to respond, and the only site they were interested in considering was the Wood Motors lot.

City Financial Director Jay Winzenz said he wasn’t surprised that only one of the sites drew a developer’s interest. “It’s a somewhat unique facility, being a combination transit transfer facility, mixed-use, and housing,” he said. The other sites identified in the study – which include the block across North Barstow Street from the so-called Block 7 parking lot, as well as another block on North Barstow that includes a parking lot along the Eau Claire River – post more challenges to potential developers, particularly the fact that they would require the acquisition of private property. By contrast, the Wood Motors lot is owned by the city.

The city set rough parameters for the project: It would include 66 residential units, some reserved for low-income residents; 100 parking spaces; 18,000 square feet of commercial space; 4,000 square feet of space for the transit center; and room for a dozen city buses.

Winzenz noted that the City Council’s Jan. 10 vote is only a first step. In the coming months, city staffers will work with Gorman to create a site plan for the project. Next, the developer will apply for low-income housing tax credits and federal transportation investment grants to help fund the project. Currently, the city’s 2017 capital budget includes $6.25 million for the transit center, including $5 million from such grants, with the balance coming from the city itself and other sources. In a best-case scenario, ground could be broken on the new facility in the spring of 2018, Winzenz said.

Pavelski, the Transit Commission chairwoman, said she was surprised that only one site drew a developer’s attention. Considering that growing numbers of young Americans are eschewing car ownership, Pavelski believes public transportation is only going to become more important in the future. “If I had any misgivings (about the project), my only thought is will it be big enough that it will meet those future needs,” she said.

The City Council approved the resolution on an 8-1 vote. The only council member to vote against the measure was Kate Beaton. In an interview, Beaton said she had hoped the City Council would wait to get more input from the Transit Commission as well as from transit users before giving the go-ahead on negotiations. “To me, the community was clearly crying out for involvement,” she said. In addition, Beaton said she was disappointed developers weren’t interested in the other proposed sites.

That being said, however, she said she’s supportive of building a new transit center, especially one that includes affordable housing. “I think anything we do is going to be an improvement to our transit system,” Beaton said. “That structure we have there is simply inadequate.”

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Saturday, Jan. 21st, 2017

Chippewa Valley Writers Guild Launches New Season of Summer Retreats

A weekend writer’s retreat hosted by the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild at the Cirenaica lodge just outside of Fall Creek. Photo: Justin Patchin
A weekend writer’s retreat hosted by the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild at the Cirenaica lodge just outside of Fall Creek.

This month, the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild announced its second season of weekend retreats for writers looking to push their craft to the next level. Last year, these summer “residency” programs featured a fantastic lineup of writers in multiple genres – from fiction to poetry to memoir to radio – each leading their own 3-day weekend at the Cirenaica lodge, nestled within a patch of hilly woods amid the farm fields just outside of Fall Creek.

Each weekend included workshopping sessions, one-on-one time with the experts, craft discussions, and a special gathering/Saturday night reading where participants can show of their work. The price of admission also included a fantastic on-site chef and plenty of social opportunities with fellow writers. As a writer from last summer puts it, “I used to think writing was a solitary experience, but after the residency I realized the importance of community and the energy derived from a community of writers.”

Participants also had the option of paying a little more to stay overnight at the lodge.

The summer residencies for 2017 look to be equally engaging. You’ll find all of the features mentioned above with an all-new set of experts.

Acclaimed writer and professor Allyson Goldin Loomis will cover narrative non-fiction (June 8-11). Award-winning novelist Nickolas Butler will focus on the theory and practice of fiction (June 22-25). New York Times best-selling author June Melby will dig into memoirs (July 6-9). Former Wisconsin Poet Laureate Max Garland will discuss how poetry can locate and recreate ourselves in the world (July 13-16). And finally, veteran writing teacher Marsha Qualey will explore young adult fiction (July 21-24).

To get more details about the residencies, to apply for them, or to learn more about the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild and its many events, visit cvwritersguild.org

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Tuesday, Jan. 17th, 2017

Big Bluegrass for Blue Ox 2017

Blue Ox 2015
Blue Ox 2015

The lineup for the third annual Blue Ox Music Festival was released this morning, and it definitely keeps up its trend of curating one of the finest roots and bluegrass festivals in the country amongst the pine trees of Paul Bunyan country at the Whispering Pines Campground in the outskirts of Eau Claire. 

Now in its third year the fledgling music fest is flying high with an absolutely stacked lineup of bluegrass greats like the Punch Brothers, Greensky Bluegrass, the Sam Bush Band (who’s played all three years of this thing), and Railroad Earth; alt-country staples like Son Volt and the Drive-By Truckers; and even some local flavor courtesy of the Chippewa Valley’s own Evergreen Grass Band, Them Coulee Boys, and LASKA. And of course, Blue Ox’s band behind the wheel Pert Near Sandstone – who have curated and hosted the fest since it’s conception – will play two nights of music.

Blue Ox 2016
Blue Ox 2016

More artists are expected to be announced in the coming months, but here’s the full lineup:

Pert Near Sandstone
Punch Brothers
Greensky Bluegrass
Drive-By Truckers
Railroad Earth
Sam Bush Band
The Infamous Stringdusters
Son Volt
Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
Grateful Ball
Keller & The Keels
Jeff Austin Band
The Travelin’ McCourys
Dead Man Winter (feat. Dave Simonett of Trampled By Turtles)
The Steeldrivers
Split Lip Rayfield
Willie Watson
Fruition
Henhouse Prowlers
Rumpke Mountain Boys
Billy Strings
Colter Wall
Trout Steak Revival
Dead Horses
White Iron Band
Them Coulee Boys*
Evergreen Grass Band*
Joseph Huber
LASKA*

*Local!

Coming June 8–10, Tickets on Sale Now

Blue Ox, which kicks off its eclectic three-day party from June 8 to 10, despite this only being their third summer in existence, has quickly risen the ranks to become one of the coolest roots music festivals in America, and we can take it all in right here in the Chippewa Valley. 

“Between the lineup, improvements and additions to our festival venue, and the incredible fans we have, it is going to be a fantastic year,” says Jim Bischel, the executive director of Blue Ox as well as Country Jam. "We can’t wait until June.”

Tickets are on sale from now until January 26 at a special introductory rate. General admission three-day tickets are $145, and children under 13 are free with a paid adult – and remember, unreserved tent camping and parking is included in the general admission pass. To learn more about the festival, tickets, and camping, head to  www.blueoxmusicfestival.com

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Friday, Jan. 13th, 2017

Rock Fest Announces 2017 Lineup

Hot off one of their biggest and explosive years to date, Rock Fest is looking to capitalize on that success with a no-holds-barred lineup of rock majesty in 2017. Heading up the star-studded lineup is Slayer, Avenged Sevenfold, Rob Zombie, Korn, Megadeth, and the Insane Clown Posse. 

Fans should be excited to see Avenged Sevenfold on that list for the second time in three years and the return of Rob Zombie, who had to cut his headlining 2014 set way short because of vocal issues. It’s pretty cool to see Slayer on there too, who’ve won Grammys with their pioneering punk-thrash sounds and touring the nation, rocking every which way for over 30 years.

“We’re extremely excited to continue to be able to put on such a massive event for rock fans,” says Wade Asher, a promoter for Rock Fest. “This year’s bill features a great mix of current and past rock acts including some unique performances we’ve never had.”

And there's local bands!

You might see some familiar names on the list as well: Eau Claire hardcore band Stare Across are featured on the lineup as well as 7’s Catacomb, a supergroup of Chippewa Valley musicians from different cover bands that started rocking some original music this past year.

VIP Gold tickets are already sold out, but other tickets, campsites, and fan pit passes are on sale now at http://bit.ly/GetRockFest17Tix or via the Rock Fest corporate office at 1.800.326.FEST. All levels of VIP sections have sold out the last four years and are expected to do the same this year, so snap ‘em up quickly! 

There’s over 70 bands coming to this thing in Cadott in 2017 (see below) – from all kinds of genres like rock, metal, hardcore, classic rock, punk rock, thrash, doom, alternative rock, and more – and any true rock fan will be kicking themselves if they miss out. To check out the full lineup and order tickets now, head to rock-fest.com.

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Wednesday, Jan. 11th, 2017

Former Brewing Projekt Brewmaster Co-Launches Altoona Operation

Eric Rykal (left), who’s brewed beer for both Lucette Brewing Company and The Brewing Projekt, has teamed up with Mike Blodgett to launch Modicum Brewing in Altoona.
Eric Rykal (left), who’s brewed beer for both Lucette Brewing Company and The Brewing Projekt, has teamed up with Mike Blodgett to launch Modicum Brewing in Altoona.

Eric Rykal knows beer. Starting as a homebrewer long ago, he’s grown into a seasoned professional brewing master, crafting tons of imaginative beers and local favorites with both Lucette Brewing Company in Menomonie and The Brewing Projekt in Eau Claire over the past seven years or so.

Now, the same beer fanatics who’ve enjoyed Rykal’s creations can look forward to brews blending old and new from his new business venture: Modicum Brewing Company. Joining him and helping build the brewery from square one is his business partner, Mike Blodgett.

“There’s a lot of beers, beer styles, and traditions of brewing that aren’t being explored, and those are the ones that are most appealing to me.” – Eric Rykal, Modicum Brewing

Both men have a passion for beer; however, neither had anticipated becoming entrepreneurs. Blodgett has been a civil engineer with the state Department of Natural Resources for 30 years and has always liked the idea of owning his own business – and now the timing and inspiration has never been more perfect.

“Knowing Eric, this guy needs to brew beer,” says Blodgett, “and I’m in a position in my life where I’m getting ready to retire from my day job and would love to transition into something like this that makes people happy.”

As for Rykal, starting Modicum Brewing is about offering something both creative and different. After years of honing his technical skills and experimenting with recipe formulation, he’s ready to dive in and explore on his own.

“There are a lot of beers, beer styles, and traditions of brewing that aren’t being explored, and those are the ones that are most appealing to me,” he says. “A lot of the beers we’re going to start out with are New World takes on Old World styles.”

Together, Rykal and Blodgett bring the perfect combination of experience. Rykal intends to create great beers, and Blodgett has been diligently working to design a unique space to drink. The ideas behind both drink and space, however, are guided by the definition of Modicum found on the company’s web site: “a small quantity of a particular thing, especially something considered desirable or valuable.” It’s all about making a spectrum of special beers people love and less about high -scale distribution; their beer will only be available on-site.

“We’re not trying to rewrite the book,” says Rykal. “Just making small little tweaks that should all add up to a new experience.”

Modicum Brewing’s variety of beers will certainly cater to all palates, but Rykal says he’s interested in Old World brewing traditions. His new brews will be heavily influenced by Belgian brewing traditions and classic European flavors with subtle but impactful changes.

Rykal and Blodgett acquired a space at 3732 Spooner Ave. in Altoona, which makes Modicum Brewing that city’s much-deserved first brewery. The building has a varied history. Most recently, it was Word of Life Bible Church, but it also contains a bank vault from its more distant past as a credit union. With Blodgett’s expertise in civil engineering, you can anticipate a thoughtful and creative atmosphere. He expects to be able to seat around 75 people. In addition to the taproom, the space will include an event room for special occasions and large groups.

“We want to create a really nice experience for people of all walks of life to come in and have a craft beer,” says Blodgett.

Rykal described their plan for the space as “a coffee shop that serves beer instead of coffee.”

The steady growth of craft breweries is a cheerful addition few are complaining about, especially in the Chippewa Valley. They make great beer we can all rally behind. For the owners of Modicum Brewing, it’s about creating a world-class experience with a local focus to bring people together.

“I think it’s just the authenticity of the place. There’s a good chance the owner’s there or the guy that made the beer is there,” Rykal says. “It’s not coming from some nameless factory far away; it’s being made by these people right here. It’s less about the product itself and more about the experience while having the beer.”

Rykal and Blodgett are in the process of building Modicum Brewing from the ground up, and have anticipate a public opening in June this year.

To follow Modicum’s progress and read more about their beers, find them on Facebook page or head to www.modicumbrewing.com.

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