From Carson to Phoenix to Owen and beyond, we Eau Clairians love our parks – all 35 of ’em. The parks’ quality is due in large part to the hard work of the folks at the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department, and that work was honored by their peers this month at the National Recreation and Park Association annual convention in Charlotte, N.C. Each year, the professional group gives awards to departments that “demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development, and agency recognition.” Eau Claire was one of four gold medal finalists in its population group (30,001 and 75,000); the top honor, however, went to the Kettering, Ohio, parks department. “Understandably, we’re feeling a little disappointed right now, but it’s still an honor to have made it this far. We’d also like to congratulate the City of Kettering and all the finalists,” Phil Fieber, Eau Claire Parks, Recreation, and Forestry director said in a press release. “They all have great programs, and to be included among them as a top four finalist is quite an honor and puts our department and our community in very select company. I’m still very proud of our staff and the work they do, as well as our community for supporting us in this journey.” Kudos to Fieber & Co. for their efforts; why not celebrate with a picnic in the park?
With Halloween fast approaching many of us turn our attention to stories of things that are, shall we say, more than natural. And while many of you relish in tales of ghouls and monsters, let's not forget that other box of paranormal treats – the humble UFO encounter.
And if you're looking for local UFO lore, fear not. Hurtling towards us at the speed of awesome is UFO Wisconsin’s (kinda) interactive UFO Reports by County map. It details Wisconsin UFO reports. By county. The last sighting they have for Eau Claire County is 2005, but Chippewa County has an ’08 sighting.
Warning: UFO Wisconsin’s web design is everything you'd hope for from website about UFOs.
I believe all the reports listed are made directly to UFO Wisconsin and they’re … well, many of them sound kinda crazy. They’re just straight up reports from people like you and me, and they run the gamut from “weird lights moving fast in the distance” to “oh, yeah, aliens visit my backyard all the time.” For me, believability isn’t really part of the equation. It’s just fun to hear your neighbors talk about this stuff.
Hey, remember when the ol' Greyhound bus station used to snuggle up next to The State Theatre (where they showed movies – not plays – and had a bowling alley in the basement)? And remember when the Moose Lodge was just plopped on top of the bus station like it was no big deal? Of course you don't! Well, most of you don't. That photo up above is from the mid 1940s.
The State Theatre's sign is all curly. You just don't see curly signs like that anymore.
Steve Johnson posted the image to the You Know You Are From Eau Claire When... Facebook page last week, and we asked Eldbjorg Tobin (who maintains the Chippewa Valley Museum’s collection of historic photos) to date it. Eldbjorg tells us the photo was taken sometime between 1945 and 1946, a time when movie theaters, bowling alleys, clubs, and bus stations where somehow shoehorned into just one part of a single city block.
As you may have heard, local legend Bob Dawson passed away on Monday (October 20). He was 90 years old. Countless Chippewa Vallians knew him as "Sheriff Bob," the star of WEAU's iconic Sheriff Bob kids' show from 1954 to 1978. The idea of a local, Chippewa Valley kids' show seems kind of novel here in 2014, but at the time, kids were able to attend live tapings and watch from home for glimpses of friends and neighbors. The show was broadcast throughout western Wisconsin.
Beyond his 24-year run as Sheriff Bob, the always humble Dawson hosted a number of other shows on WEAU, and would often visit children at local hospitals as his Sheriff persona. You can see WEAU's tribute to Dawson here.
A few years ago, local filmmakers Rob Mattison and Bill Olson produced a great documentary on Sheriff Bob for Chippewa Valley's Community Television. Check out part one:
Keep reading to see parts two and three!
Wisconsin People & Ideas holding fiction and poetry contests ...
Are you a writer of fiction who needs a contest to enter your short story into? The 2015 Wisconsin People & Ideas Fiction Contest is now open for submissions until Dec. 15. Entering your story gives you the chance to win cash prizes and publication in Wisconsin People & Ideas magazine. First place will be awarded $500, second $250, and third $100. Whoever wins first place will also win a one-week residency at Shake Rag Alley School for Arts and Crafts in Mineral Point. As long as you are a Wisconsin resident or student and over the age of 18, then you are eligible to enter the contest. The lead contest judge this year will be the Chippewa Valley’s own Nickolas Butler, whose writing has appeared in a number of publications and recently released his critically-acclaimed debut novel Shotgun Lovesongs. This contest has given awards to fiction from established authors as well as emerging ones, so don’t be shy about sending in your story. Read the full contest rules and learn how to submit your poem at www.wisconsinacademy.org/fictioncontest.
If you’re looking for a poetry contest to enter that lyrical work of art you’ve been creating, then enter the 2015 Wisconsin People & Ideas Poetry Contest by the Dec. 15 deadline. The winner who takes first will receive $500, second will receive $250, and third $100. The first-place author will also win a one-week artist residency at Shake Rag School for Arts and Crafts. Along with their cash prize, winners will read their poems at the 2015 Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison and see them published in Wisconsin People & Ideas magazine. It doesn’t matter if you are a published or an emerging author, the only requirements to enter are that you’re a Wisconsin resident or student and that you’re over 18 years old. The lead contest judge will be Kara Candito, a widely published poet and professor at UW-Platteville. Read the full contest rules and learn how to submit your poem at www.wisconsinacademy.org/poetrycontest.
The Eau Claire City Council approved an agreement Tuesday (Oct. 14) offering $5.9 million in incentives for the developers of the mixed-use portion of the Confluence Project in downtown Eau Claire. The council voted 7-4 to OK the deal as well as to create a new downtown Tax Increment Financing District, which will collect the funds that go toward the incentives.
The multi-use building (rendering above) will be one of the top-10 taxpaying properties in the city once it is finished, according to city estimates. Under the development agreement, the so-called Haymarket Landing on South Barstow Street – which will feature six stories of retail space and student-oriented apartments – will be worth at least $23.2 million and will pay a minimum of $549,000 in property taxes each year. Under the agreement, the owners have guaranteed the tax payment regardless of the building’s business performance, meaning its owners – not other taxpayers – will pay off the city’s investment in the Confluence Project, explained Dan Clumpner, one of the partners in Haymarket Concepts, which is developing the project.
The agreement stipulates that the building will be completed by the end of 2016, and that the city’s $5.9 million incentive to the developer will be broken into segments: $1 million when the development is worth at least $5 million; another $1 million when the structure is fully enclosed; $655,000 when it is worth $12 million; and $295,000 when an occupancy permit is issued. The remaining $2.95 million incentive will be paid sometime between 2019 and 2040, and then only if the money is available from the special taxing district and if the adjacent arts center is under construction.
Haymarket Landing is being developed by Haymarket Concepts, a partnership of Commonweal Development, Market & Johnson, and Blugold Real Estate, part of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. The private development will be built alongside the proposed Confluence Arts Center, a joint project of UWEC and Eau Claire Regional Arts Council.
According to some, Wisconsin is ripping at its cheesy seams with the strange and unusual. Classic creatures like werewolves, witches, and lake monsters have been our neighbors for as long as local legends have been told. With the help of longtime Chippewa Valley paranormal investigator Chad Lewis, we present to you a mere sampling of Wisconsin’s cryptozoological wonders.
Physical Description: A bulky fellow, it walks upright on two legs, has a wolf-like face, and is about the size of a bear ... and has bright red eyes.
Also known as the “Wisconsin Werewolf,” the Beast of Bray Road was originally only sighted in Elkhorn but it seems its habitat has expanded across the very state. Being the carnivore that it is, it’s most often seen eating from some freshly killed prey near the road. Of course, if you can’t catch it there, just check out the movie.
Physical Description: They look like chickens, but have a habit of vanishing into thin air.
On a legendary road called “Chicken Alley,” unsuspecting drivers have reported hitting a chicken, walking out to investigate and seeing nothing to be found. Others have even seen an entire flock (or, technically, a brood) of chickens storm the road, but disappear before any bird could be hurt. Yep – GHOST CHICKENS.
Physical Description: Standard mysterious old lady.
This story begins like many witch stories before it, with an isolated woman in a dilapidated house. When the woman resided there nearly 70 years ago, it was said that ominous chanting could be heard coming from the house and naturally the rumor mill began churning out ideas that the old woman was involved with *gasp* unholy rituals. So, obviously the land is now cursed.
Location: Mineral Point
Physical Description: Tall, thin, pale, and vampirey.
In the days of yester-year (the 1980s), a police officer was surprised to find one of Dracula’s relatives lounging about in Graceland Cemetery. Doing his duty, he chased the strange creature down, only to be cut off when it scaled the encompassing fence and vanished. Many believe that this was probably a practical joker or someone who was very confused. OR WAS IT?
Keep reading to learn about 3 more Sconnie beasties!