Traditions. You can love them, you can hate them, or you can do both at the same time. These Wisconsin traditions – some obvious, some not – are destined to get strange looks from outsiders. May they never be forgotten.
Wisconsinites like to drink; that's no secret. That being the case, a wedding is a pretty big deal, so why wouldn’t we all take a couple hours to celebrate ... before we celebrate and properly soak it in. Pun intended.
A staple in Wisconsin culture, no Friday is complete without fish. It’s seemingly been around since our state’s inception, but in truth, only really kicked off during the Prohibition era. A strategy to keep customers, restaurateurs decided, “Hey, what’s more than fish and alliteration?”
With no connections to actual cannibals, this Scandinavian and Germanic treat revolves around raw beef. It’s what makes it so special but also so very ... dangerous. With modern knowledge of raw meat and all it, um, can contain, this dish’s fandom has been fading, but c’mon, with a name like that, will it ever disappear?
Another tradition synonymous with our state’s name, it all started with one brave man. Ralph Bruno used some leftover foam from a couch, burned a couple holes into it, and painted it the delicious color we’re all so familiar with. Fun Fact: Despite its huge association with the Packers, it was first debuted at a Brewers game.
This one's out of left field. In case you weren’t aware, Lake Tomahawk is the Summer Snowshoe Baseball capital. It’s your classic baseball game except the field is covered with sawdust and wood chips, and, of course, the players sport snowshoes. As Don Hilgendorf, manager of the Snowshoe league, once said, “If you can shuffle your feet, you’re fine.”
Future Eau Claire's gonna get hot. According to an engaging map posted by Mashable, if current emission rates continue, by the year 2100, summer temperatures in cities across the United States will raise so significantly that they will literally feel like different cities.
So, what does that mean for us? While the average temperature right now for the summer months in Eau Claire is about 82 degrees Fahrenheit, in 2100, it is predicted to be 92 degrees, which will feel similar to present day Sugar Land, Texas. Yowza.
In addition to Eau Claire, 1,000 other U.S. cities are featured on the map, and many of the results are pretty shocking. Mashable says that, since ocean temperatures increase more slowly, the temperatures in inland locations will be even more dramatic. Helena, Montana, for example, is predicted to raise 12 degrees to be similar to the city of Riverside, California. Phoenix, Arizona will feel like “summering in a sweltering Kuwait City.”
If there’s one thing Wisconsin chair companies are good at, it’s making chairs. If there’s another, it’s defining the history of American music. Yes folks, it's true – without the Wisconsin Chair Company (of Grafton) our global culture of music might not sound like it does today. Feel free to sit in a chair as you let that soak in.
Paramount Records (ring a bell?) began as a side project of the Wisconsin Chair Company, and initially was created out of necessity. After all, everyone needed something to play on their fine phonographs purchased at said company. As an interview recently posted to Collectors Weekly explains ...
Paramount is this incredible label that was born from a company called the Wisconsin Chair Company, which was making chairs, obviously. The company had started building phonograph cabinets to contain turntables, which they also were licensing. And they developed, like many furniture companies, an arm that was a record label so that they could make records to sell with the cabinets. This was before a time in which record stores existed. People bought their records at the furniture store, because they were things you needed to make your furniture work.
Small scale as it was, Paramount soon became a top notch source for “race records” in the late 1920s. Shipping artists up from the south (who couldn't command a high price for their music), Paramount’s scouts happened across some of the most influential talent in the Blues genre. Ever heard of Skip James? They recorded him. What about Blind Lemon Jefferson? They recorded him too. Let’s just say, if they were great blues artists, they recorded with Paramount. I mean, with an incentive like a trip to Wisconsin, how could anybody say no to their business offer?
Modern vinyl enthusiasts now revere these (78 rpm) records as the crown jewel of any Blues collection. Unfortunately, Paramount didn’t splurge on their materials and not many records have survived, and many of those that did have the added ambient effect of surface noise. So for those who like the Blues, and those who like a challenge, grab your whip and fedora and hunt after some of Wisconsin’s own.
When getting from one place to another, time sometimes limits you from properly exploring all the majesty (and tourist traps) the fine state of Wisconsin has to offer. Sometimes this leaves your vacation or road trip feeling a tad unfinished. So how about this – below are six roadside attractions that, if you haven't the time, you don’t even need to leave your car to enjoy. Simply drive by and feel your soul become ... fuller. Hopefully. Maybe.
Rhinelander - Ever proud of their local crypto-creature, the city took it upon itself to erect a massive statue outside their visitor center. This way, the minute visitors begin to explore Hodag Country, they won’t ask silly questions, like “What the heck is a Hodag?”
Westfield - In Wisconsin, you’ll find a lot of Paul Bunyans standing around staring off into the majestic yonder, but low and behold, we also have ourselves a Mr. Boone. Or at least, a buckskin clad lad. So if you’re tiring of taking pictures with the man in flannel, here’s your chance to switch it up.
Poland - Figuring it’s better to be prepared, than not, welder Bob Tohak built an elevated landing port just in case aliens stop by. Although the actual landing port is on private property, it’s still pretty visible from the road due to the large sign, alien, lights, etc.
Deforest - 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, the gas station even sells pink elephant souvenirs to show off back home.
Milwaukee - Once functioning fermenting tanks within Lakefront Brewery, these painted tanks were repurposed and displayed as outdoor art in 2011. All that’s really left for you to do is to amble on up and hug the loveable lads … just know they won’t hug you back.
Cudahy - 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.
A couple years ago there were rumors flying out of April Base – Justin Vernon's Fall Creek studio – about a collaboration between Vernon, Bon Iver bandmate S. Carey, and Minneapolis rapper Astronautalis, but nothing really came of it (besides a few kinda cool Instagrams).
Until now. The Current has a short (and weird) teaser video and a couple more details. Former-Eau Clairian-turned-Minneapolis-superstar producer Ryan Olson has a hand in it (no surprise) and it's called Jason Feathers. Yes, Jason Feathers, everybody. That's what we've been waiting for.
Watch the teaser below and stay tuned for whatever comes next.
If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. Apparently, Wisconsin has made its mark on New York City with a string of six Wisconsin-based restaurants near the West Village together known as “Little Wisco.” Wisconsin Public Radio’s Wisconsin Life recently ran a segment featuring Wisconsin natives Adam Benedetto and Brian Bartels, employees at the Wisconsin-bred restaurant Joseph Leonard, the original business that started the Sconnie phenomenon.
Creator Gabriel Stulman, a University of Wisconsin graduate, has built the eatery on his Midwestern attitude (aka niceness). Employees in Little Wisco-based establishments are Wisconsinites through and through – Benedetto said that customers often compliment the staff on their friendliness, to which he responds, “Well, we’re from Wisconsin. It’s what we do.”
Little Wisco brings a sense of closeness and normalcy to a city sometimes known for its chilly anonymity. Benedetto said, “New York City thrives on other people bringing culture to the city.” Bartles mentioned that it’s difficult to feel homesick in Little Wisco since he lives above the biggest Packer bar in the city. The community aspect Little Wisco offers can’t be replicated, and Bartles claims it could only have been learned at home in Wisconsin.
We love pointing out local celebrities – and by that we mean "real" celebrities on a national scale that were originally from the area. There aren't a lot, but the Chippewa Valley has a few. That said, you might be surprised to learn we've also got a number of notable unreal local celebrities (fictionally) hailing from the area – and Chippewa Falls in particular appears to be a hotbed. Check it out:
Near, far, wherever we are, we will always hold a place in our hearts for the romantic hero of the blockbuster film Titanic, played by Leonard DiCaprio. Jack (above) is famously from Chippewa Falls, where as a kid he fell into the frigid waters of Lake Wissota while ice fishing. As it happens, the man-made Lake Wissota didn’t exist in 1912; if we could say the same for the North Atlantic, the film would have had a happier ending.
The free-spirited title character in Woody Allen’s 1977 film also hails from Chippewa Falls. In one memorable sequence, Annie (Diane Keaton) and Alvy (Allen himself) visit Annie’s hometown, meeting her presumably anti-Semitic grandmother and creepy brother (a young Christopher Walken). The character Annie is supposedly based in part on Chippewa Falls-born beatnik singer Judy Henske.
This character from the Syfy channel TV series (which ran from 2004-09) is a brainiac who graduated three years ahead of her classmates (no word on whether she attended Chi-Hi or McDonell). She was played by Jewel Staite, who’s best known as Kaylee Frye in the cult series Firefly.
Where do you find “A Real American Hero”? In an all-American town like Chippewa Falls, of course. The laser-toting soldier (real identity: Sgt. James Barney) was one of the original 12 action figures sold when G.I. Joe toys was re-launched in 1982. Numerous versions of the action figure have been issued, and the character has shown up in G.I. Joe cartoons and comic books as well.
Strictly speaking, this 1980s-era supercomputer really did exist – it was made by what was then called Cray Research in Chippewa Falls – but it had a life of its own in fiction, too. In Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park, the X-MP is used to sequence dinosaur DNA, thus helping bring the beasts back to life.