Thursday, Sep. 24th, 2015

Target Troll/Chippewa Valley Native Mike Melgaard Strikes Again!

Former local Mike Melgaard, shown here cuddling a puppy. Image:
Former local Mike Melgaard, shown here cuddling a puppy. Image:

Hey, remember Altoona High School graduate Mike Melgaard? He's mostly known as the "Target Troll," because last month he posed as a Target customer service representative to troll people leaving hateful comments and boycott threats on Target's Facebook page – in response to the company's decision to remove gender labeling from its toy and bedding aisles. 'Twas hilarious and nefarious. 

The story of Melgaard's trolling blew up, as a multitude of sites – such as Mashable, Buzzfeed, Today, Time, and Paste – posted screenshots of the conversations.

Well, Melgaard (who lives in Arizona) pulled the same bit this week – to great effect – on Doritos' Facebook page after the cheesey chip company released their LGBT-pride rainbow-colored chips, a limited time product helping to raise money for the It Gets Better Project. Using the name "Doritos ForHelp," he engaged in ridiculous conversations with unaware, anti-gay commenters miffed (or enraged) by the tortilla chip-based campaign. 

You can see a sampling of those conversations posted here by AdWeek. Notable comments involve Melgaard pointing out that Facebook – the platform these upset chip lovers are using to voice their anti-gay distain – is itself a supporter of gay rights. 

Comments 2

Wednesday, Sep. 23rd, 2015

Do Locals Leave Eau Claire to Find Love? Indeed They Do.

Recently, the Star Tribune ran an essay from local UW-Eau Claire English professor Katie Vagnino entitled, Lonely in Eau Claire: Why I started commuting to Minneapolis for romance.

The essay details the quest of a local 33-year-old serial monogamist who had hoped to find a soulmate “hiding in the cornfields of bucolic western Wisconsin,” but ... hasn’t.

She has, however, had much better luck in the Twin Cities – that handsome Midwestern siren who’s been sucking young professionals and greasy-haired indie rock bands out of Eau Claire for decades. Using dating apps like Tinder, Vagnino discovered a much wider array of datable men on the other side of the St. Croix with “far fewer Green Bay Packers jerseys.”

She’s careful to point out she’s not anti-Wisconsin, per se. She does enjoy Eau Claire’s apartment rental rates:

Don’t get me wrong, there are things I enjoy about Wisconsin — who wouldn’t like paying $450 for a one-bedroom apartment? But the culture took some getting used to.

She says the local single men responding to her online dating profile generally followed certain patterns. Most had kids. Most had been married. None of this turned her off, and she said the men she’s met are polite, attractive, and intelligent. However, as she points out ...

Sports fandom or even fanaticism was pretty much a given, as was outdoors enthusiasm. Camping, fishing and hunting appeared to be the activities for which most of these men sought companionship. Given my proclivity for urban creature comforts and fear of firearms, I figured it was time to test the wisdom of Paula Abdul and see if opposites really did attract.

She didn’t say if any of the men she’s dated appreciate Paula Abdul references from 1988. I’m betting not many. (I’d also wager against the effectiveness of quoting MC Skat Kat whilst wooing local thirty-somethings.)

As far as the sports and hunting stuff – fair enough. You’ll definitely get more of that around here than in places like New York or Boston – the writer’s ol’ stompin’ grounds.

Obviously, Vagnino has found herself un-attracted to her locally based “opposites.” She was looking forward to meeting men “less neurotic and less metrosexual” than what she was used to on the East Coast. And while this is apparently what she’s found, she’s also discovered very little common ground.

She also claims, “most of these guys had never lived outside of Wisconsin and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to.”

A certain amount of defensiveness...

A certain amount of defensiveness (that I’d classify as “a lot”) bubbles up in reaction to Vagnino’s essay. I’m not alone – it’s certainly the popular sentiment I’ve seen in local Facebook threads discussing her commentary, as well as in comments on the Star Tribune’s website. But really, I know she’s not trying to speak for everyone. She’s talking about her own likes and dislikes, and you can’t fault her for that. I’d rather not listen to local dudes discussing fantasy football for hours on end, either. (That’s a torture one sees lumbering across both gender and relationship boundaries.)

So, I wouldn’t take it too personally, men of Chippewa Valley. She’s just not that into you.

I will say this, however. Having grown up in Eau Claire, and having attended school at the very same University by which Vagnino is employed, the “football lovin’ cornfield dweller who loves to shoot guns” is not the stereotypical man I’ve encountered. There are many of these guys, and they are often great fellas, but I can’t imagine they represent an overwhelming majority of the local dating pool. I think plenty of local men own cats, listen to NPR, and like watching BBC shows on Netflix.

That said, I’m straight, married, and not trying to find such a man, so I have no idea where they hang out en masse. Vagnino has far more experience here. I may very well be wrong. 

At the end of the day I just really want my neighbors to be happy in both love and life, so I want to believe this area is home to the kind of guy Vagnino wouldn’t mind serial monog-ing. Perhaps local guys searching for ladies into “Russian literature, sushi, Etta James, and pinot noir,” as Vagnino is, just don’t do a lot of online dating? I don’t know.

We spend a lot of time talking about local culture, local development, and the local art/music/writing scenes, but the area’s dating and relationship scene is a pretty important part of the Chippewa Valley Puzzle. Pointing out our low diversity in the dating pool is not necessarily an insult, but it’s absolutely not something we’d paint on the “Welcome to Eau Claire” sign.

Ultimately, Vagnino is not alone in this, and she brings up some pretty valid observations worthy of our discussion. So please ... discuss.

Comments 7

Take a Look: Water Street Bridge Demolition

Eau Claire photographer Tina Ecker was out and about this week when she snapped some shots of this demolition crew in their nutty-looking space suits protective gear, cutting apart the old Water Street bridge to make way for its replacement. 

Comments 1

Eaux Claires Ranked Amongst Top 5 Summer Music Festivals

July’s inaugural Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival was not only a special thing for locals, but it seems to have struck a resounding chord beyond our fair Valley. One year in, and the good people over at Consequence of Sound just ranked the Justin Vernon-curated fest one of the top five music festivals in North America for 2015, beating out the likes of Pitchfork, Bonaroo, and Austin City Limits. Coachella was their top choice. Of Eaux Claires, they say ...

It’s hard to know what to expect from a brand new music festival, but when the curators happen to be two of the biggest names in indie rock—Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner—chances are it’s going to be an experience. Those who ventured to Eau Claire, Wisconsin this past July found a festival off the beaten path in both the phrase’s literal and figurative meaning. Located away from the city proper, Eaux Claires thrived along the banks of Chippewa River, which provided a unique space for creativity in all forms. As was reiterated by almost every act on the lineup, the festival was for the music — it wasn’t a scene. Sufjan Stevens boasted that he never plays festivals, namely because he “is agoraphobic and terrified of contracting lyme disease or an STD or whatever.” But more to the point he doesn’t play them because the appreciation wasn’t there. The consensus was that Eaux Claires was a special place for musicians and their fans, for art to breathe and be enjoyed. –Amanda Roscoe Mayo

Add a Comment »

Eau Claire Opens New Trail Connection

The High Bridge (Image: City of Eau Claire)
The High Bridge (Image: City of Eau Claire)

Rejoice local, urban bikers and hikers – the struggle of getting from Folsom Street to the High Bridge is over. Last week the trail connecting these two areas opened for travel.

This new trail section connects to the trail starting just north of Folsom Street and extends a paved vehicle free path down to the recently opened High Bridge. This connection makes for a simple trip from the west side of Eau Claire to Phoenix Park and downtown.

With this new addition, Eau Claire now has over 30 miles of recreational trails and 4 miles of mountain biking trails within the city limits. These trails cover much of the city and make for a safer – and more enjoyable! – traveling experience for those wishing to bike, walk, run, or skate throughout town. 

Comments 3

Tuesday, Sep. 22nd, 2015

Searching for Wisconsin's "Best" Sandwich

Look tasty? Look closer. The
Look tasty? Look closer. We couldn't find an actual picture of a "Bratwurst with Cheese Curds" sandwich, so we made one ourselves. In Photoshop. 

Can we take a minute to talk about sandwiches? They’re great, if only because anything can be made into a sandwich if you try hard enough, even the planet Earth (seriously, go make an Earth sandwich). And one could say that each State of the Union, or region of the country, has it's own iconic 'wich. Some have obvious connections, such as the Philly Cheesesteak, but some are less apparent. 

The folks over at Business Insider (our nation's top choice for sandwich news?) went around the country and compiled a list of what they think is each state’s "best" sandwich (the pictures are amazing). According to this list, our stately neighbors in Minnesota are known for their burger with cheese on the inside (the infamous Juicy Lucy), and Illinois for their burger topped with fries. Really? That's "the best" Illinois has to offer? I hear Chicago makes a hotdog people seem to like.

(See a condensed rundown of the sandwiches from Mental Floss.)

For Wisconsin, they chose "Bratwurst with Cheese Curds." Now, I'm pretty sure they just chose a few "Sconnie things" and crammed them together into an imaginary sandwich, as I've never seen such a creation in the wild. Maybe they could have added some Door County cherries and some cranberry sauce? A pretzel bun in the shape of Aaron Rodger's face? They say:

"This Midwestern state has a large German immigrant population, so it's no surprise its most famous sandwich contains classic bratwurst. Eat the sausage on a roll topped with mustard, sauerkraut, and cheese curds — another thing for which Wisconsin is well-known."

What do you think? Is that our best or can we do better?

Add a Comment »

Monday, Sep. 21st, 2015

The 5 Oldest Houses in Eau Claire County

Clarence Chamberlin House
Clarence Chamberlin House

The Chippewa Valley is chock-full of rich history, exemplified in its historic buildings. Eau Claire County alone has 63 entries in the National Register of Historic Places, three of which date back to the 1860’s. Of our 63 entries these are the five oldest houses in the county. 

1. Clarence Chamberlin House – 1881

The Clarence Chamberlin House on West Grand Avenue (above) was built in 1881 for Clarence Chamberlin, who settled in Eau Claire in 1856 and worked as a lumber salesmen for the Empire Lumber Company. He later served on their board of directors as well as numerous other boards until his death.

Levi Merrill House
Levi Merrill House

4. Levi Merrill House – 1873

The Levi Merrill House on Ferry Street (above) was built in 1873 for Levi Merrill who was a noted stonemason and owned a quarry just west of the house. Merrill lived in Eau Claire as early as 1876 and is credited for cutting the stone pedestal for a sundial which used to stand at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Water Street. This house is one of the only remaining original structures in Shawtown.

Martin Van Buren Barron House
Martin Van Buren Barron House

3. Martin Van Buren Barron House – 1871

The Martin Van Buren Barron House on Washington Street, also known as the Krause House, was constructed by local builders Bangs and Fish. Van Buren Barron settled in Eau Claire in 1865 and ran a flour and feed store until 1878. Van Buren Barron was elected to the first city council of Eau Claire in 1872, representing the lower Third Ward.

Cobblestone House
Cobblestone House

2. The "Cobblestone House" – 1866

The Cobblestone House on State Street, also known as the Joel Roberts House, was built in 1866 by Bradley Marcy who constructed the exterior of the house from stones gathered from the banks of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers. This house is the only example of cobblestone architecture in the Chippewa Valley. 

Adin Randall House
Adin Randall House

1. Adin Randall House – 1862

The Adin Randall House was built in 1862 for Adin Randall, who was one of Eau Claire’s first settlers who promoted the area as rich with lumber. His house was built near his factory and mill on the Chippewa River at the end of Ninth Avenue. Randall also operated a ferry across the Chippewa and invented the sheer boom to divert logs into Half Moon Lake to cut losses during floods. 

Comments 1

Thursday, Sep. 17th, 2015

Saturday! International Fall Festival

International Fall Festival 2014
International Fall Festival 2014

The official start to fall may not be until the 23rd but we’re kicking it off early with the 38th annual International Fall Festival – this Saturday, Sept. 19. One of our favorite annual events, IFF closes down South Barstow Street and brings it to life with people and vendors crowding the motorway for an afternoon of food, heritage, and community. This year’s lineup includes classic favorites like the parade (which will be bigger than ever this year), performances by local groups, and of course, all the food you can eat. Amongst 2015's additions, the Blugold Marching Band will be giving a special performance at 1:30pm, the Torch Sisters will be giving a hula hooping demonstration, they'll have a scavenger hunt throughout downtown, and they'll even host a cotton candy eating contest.

Make sure you stop by and say "hi" to us at the The Local Store – we'll have a big tent on site, basically recreating the huge mobile store we produced for the Eaux Claires Music & Art Festival. It's like The Local Store's little sister. And you'll find it on the 200 block of S. Barstow, across from the Eau Claire Children's Museum, in the parking lot next to the Lismore Hotel project. See you there!

Add a Comment »

Wednesday, Sep. 16th, 2015

Eau Claire County Reaffirms $3.5M Confluence Pledge

The Eau Claire County Board has once again given a thumbs-up to its $3.5 million pledges toward the Confluence Project’s performing arts center in downtown Eau Claire. In a 21-5 vote Tuesday evening, the board reaffirmed the pledge, which had originally been made in January 2014. The performing arts center, which is slated to open in 2018, will be shared by UW-Eau Claire and community groups.

The resolution “gives us a change to keep our word,” county Supervisor Colleen Bates said, according to the Leader-Telegram. “I can’t recall in all of my years of living in Eau Claire that there has been this kind of philanthropic response that we’re seeming for this project at this time.”

Why did the county board repeat its earlier vote? In the year and a half since the original pledge, the scope and funding mix of the project has changed. Most notably, the county’s $3.5 million pledge was originally contingent on a $25 million commitment from the state. However, this summer the state instead set aside $15 million for the project in its 2015-17 budget – a commitment that itself was contingent on a $15 million match from philanthropic donations and other local public and private sources. Under the newly approved county resolution, the county’s pledge is now also contingent on that $15 million in philanthropy and local funding, a goal that seems within reach: Fundraising for the project recently passed the $10 million mark, and this week another major pledge – $50,000 from Security Financial Bank – was made toward the project.

Meanwhile, work continues on the privately funded mixed-use portion of the project, which is rising on South Barstow Street near the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers.

Add a Comment »

Tuesday, Sep. 15th, 2015

4 Eccentric 19th Century Wisconsinites

The 19th century was weird. Really weird. Consult any book of historical accounts from the time period and you'll find sea monsters, "zombies," ghosts, cattle monstrosities, and Hodags. The people were weird too, and 19th century Wisconsinites were no exception. Every town from Madison to Mackinac Island had its colorful characters, so let's take a look at a witch doctor, a town drunk, a mystic, and a man with a window in his stomach.

1. Renown Wisconsin Mining Mystic, Mary Hayes-Chynoweth

I'd probably listen to her.
Can't argue with her results.

In 1853, schoolteacher Mary Hayes-Chynoweth claimed to have been pushed to the floor of her kitchen and inhabited by a disembodied force. Her account goes on to say that she began speaking in tongues, and a voice told her that she would spend the rest of her life healing people. So clearly it made sense to devote her life to spiritual medicine andmysticism. Although seances and other supernatural exploits were sweeping the nation at the time, Mary held that these were hoaxes and that her powers derived from God connecting her to a "force" or "power." While she certainly had her skeptics, a bizarre tale unfolded in 1883 when Mary claimed the "Power" had told her to direct her sons to change careers from forestry to mining. Then, with no knowledge of mining whatsoever, she showed them the exact place to dig to uncover rich veins of ore. Her family then became incredibly wealthy and she founded the town of Hurley. Like you do.

2. Wisconsin's First "Doctor," Aunt Mary Ann

To the people of Prairie du Chien, their doctor was known only as Aunt Mary Ann.  A former slave who came upriver from Louisiana near the turn of the 19th century, she eventually married Charles Menard (yes, that Menard) and mothered over twelve children. She was the first person in Wisconsin, in the early days of permanent settlements, to practice the healing arts, and is thus considered our state's first "doctor." She charged fees, visited patients, and used healing salves and herbs. Until, and even slightly after, a surgeon arrived at the fort in Prairie du Chiene in 1816, Aunt Mary Ann carried her "device and yarb drink" to heal the sick (results may vary). In one case, she saved a baby who'd sustained a serious head wound from an Indian attack, using a silver plate to patch her little skull. The baby lived to be over 80 years old.

3. The Man with a Window in His Gut, Alexis St. Martin

Alexis St. Martin (pictured right) and his wife in old age.
Alexis St. Martin (pictured right) and his wife in old age.

Fair warning: this one's really gross. In the summer of 1822, fur trader and voyageur Alexis St. Martin was the victim of an accidental shotgun blast. It tore a hole in his side and exposed his stomach. US Army surgeon William Beaumont treated him and helped him recover over the course of the following months. Beaumont was fascinated with the way that the wound healed, and because the now-disabled Martin couldn't make a living at his old career, the good doctor made him an offer. He hired Martin as a servant and would carry out a wide array of experiments on him to better understand the digestive process. Now while Beaumont's discoveries were later refined into modern gastronomy, I just wish there was an easier way than installing a window in a man's stomach to watch food digest.

4. Madison's Beloved Drunkard, "Turtle Toes"

The "town drunk," a comical staple archetype from old-timey movies and books, now seems more of a menace to society. However, in the 1870s, one such town drunk charmed his way through the streets of Madison. Pinneo was a shingle salesman who, according to record, was "ever ready to do the bidding of those choosing to command his services when sober, which was only when every artifice and cunning had failed to provide the means of getting drunk." He was given the name "Turtle Toes" because he never wore shoes and his toes were hard, callous, bent, and looked like turtle necks. What a scamp.


Comments 4

Local Guides

Lists of places & resources