Thursday, Sep. 25th, 2014

Wisconsin Fall Color Report reports Wisconsin's fall colors

Click on the map above for interactive color reporting.  (Just kidding, Clicky McClickerson. Go here for the interactive voodoo.)
Click on the map above for interactive color reporting.
(Just kidding, Clicky McClickerson. Go here for the interactive voodoo.)

You better hurry up and make your leaf-looking plans, local leaf-looking fans! Eau Claire County is currently at 30% Autumn-ness, with an estimated Go Look at the Awesome Trees Cuz It Only Gets Browner from Here Time (a phrase of our own invention) around the 2nd week of October. Who says? Travel Wisconsin says.

The Wisconsin Fall Color Report on Travelwisconsin.com gives you up-to-date color percentages for the tree clothing in each of Wisconsin’s glorious counties –  and while we're at only 30% color, things will be changing quickly this year. Meanwhile, Dunn County is sitting at 25% color, while Chippewa County's leaf bearers are in the lead at 40%.

But hey, if you need to experience the mysterious wonders of chlorophyll deprivation RIGHT NOW, scoot over to Clark County – currently enjoying 75% color.

According to Travel Wisconsin, they've got 100 fall color reporters providing updates in all 72 counties of the state, and there is no other report that's as comprehensive or timely. And since we know of no other fall color reports, we believe 'em.

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Wednesday, Sep. 24th, 2014

Oktoberfest’s Shocking Past

Oktoberfest, Chippewa Falls
2014's 12th Annual Chippewa Falls Oktoberfest

The first Oktoberfest took place in Munich, Germany, in 1810, when the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig was to be wed to Princess Therese on Oct. 12. Prince Ludwig was known to be obsessed with history, and wanted a public event that could be compared to the Olympic Games of old. He organized a public horse race in a meadow outside of Munich, and the festival was born on October 17. The event was so popular that it has been held ever since. The second year, they added an agricultural fair to the event, and that portion of Oktoberfest still exists in Munich every three years. Year by year events and food have been added, but it still takes place in that meadow, now named Theresienwiese (Wiesn for short) after Princess Therese.

Tap the Kep!

“Oktoberfest” and “beer.” To anyone who has been to Oktoberfest (or even just heard of it) those two words go together like peanut butter and jelly. But what most people don’t know is that Oktoberfest in Munich didn’t even include beer for the first 70 years of its existence. In 1881, the city council finally allowed beer sales and the first grilled chicken stand. Those seven dry decades aren’t the only shocking truth about Oktoberfest. There’s this one: Some of the first beer stands were built in trees. Those poor stein-wielding Germans had to climb trees to get beer. That has schrecklich kämpfen written all over it.

Soon beer became a staple in the festivities. The biggest beer tent to ever be erected, the Bräurosl, was built in 1913 on the grounds with enough space for 12,000 guests. Although it still exists, it only holds half of what it used to, but don’t worry. They built the Hofbräu-Festzelt to hold 10,000 more.

In 1950, the opening ceremony tradition began. The Lord Mayor of Munich starts the festivities by tapping the first keg and yelling “O’zapft is,” announcing that the keg has been tapped. Beer may not have been around in the beginning, but it later became the elixir of Oktoberfest.

Two-Century Tradition

Oktoberfest is still going strong in Munich. Every year the event generates about one billion euros in business, and the 200th anniversary in 2010 was the biggest Oktoberfest celebration ever. (Average daily attendance was 375,000). It has become a massive tourist event sporting souvenirs, art, agriculture, amusement rides, music, authentic German food and, of course, beer on tap.

Lazy Monk Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest 2013 at Lazy Monk Brewing in Eau Claire.

Upcoming Oktoberfests

Lazy Monk Oktoberfest
Sept. 27 • 4-10pm, Oct. 4 • 4-10pm
The Lazy Monk Taproom
320 Putnam St., Eau Claire

Oktoberfest USA: La Crosse*
September 25–28
Northside & Southside Festgrounds
La Crosse, Wis.

Dallas Oktoberfest
October 4 • 9am-evening
Dallas Park, Old Mill Pond
Dallas, Wis.

*La Crosse’s festival, which began in 1961, brings in an average of 175,000 people over the course of a weekend. It features parades, live music, beers from both local breweries and German breweries, and a whole host of authentic German foods. In the early 1960s, the U.S. government approved the name of “Oktoberfest, USA” and the La Crosse event was born. Since then there have been many Oktoberfest celebrations throughout the United States (the largest is in Cincinnati) and all over the world. The German traditions echo in American society, as the United States is second only to Germany itself for the number of German-born citizens.

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Eau Claire Block Party Commemorates Wind Storm of 1980

Storm damage, 1980, Eau Claire's Third Ward Neighborhood.
Storm damage, 1980, Eau Claire's Third Ward Neighborhood. Image courtesy of Luke Hoffland

On July 15, 1980, a powerful windstorm hit our area, with the Eau Claire airport registering wind speeds of 112 mph before the measuring device was torn apart. Knocking out power for a week, the storm damaged homes and littered yards and streets with downed trees. While the storm brought people together in neighborhoods across the community to share the hard work of cleaning up trees and fixing damaged homes, it also created the necessity of sharing food from fridges and freezers that would otherwise spoil.

On the 400 block of Lincoln Avenue in the heart of the Third Ward, neighbors ran generators to keep a makeshift kitchen feeding the recovery effort for over a week. The camaraderie inspired a block party called the Storm Party, an evening potluck held annually on July 15 which marked its 34th year this summer. The tradition has lasted a generation, despite the fact that only a few people who were on the block in 1980 still live there. Thankfully some of the block’s newest and youngest residents have hosted the Storm Party in recent years, which by tradition alternates from one side of the street to the other each year. The host simply leaves fliers at each house on the block a few weeks prior to the party and folks show up that evening as if the block had a dinner bell that rang just once a year ... Keep reading!

Want more? Explore more Eau Claire neighborhoods in Volume One's new
Rebuilding Our Neighborhoods issue.

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Tuesday, Sep. 23rd, 2014

5 Local Neighborhood Numbers

A lil' South Side Eau Claire neighborliness.
A lil' South Side Eau Claire neighborliness.

Take a quick look at some local statistics* exposing how we feel about own neighborhoods and our neighbors!

75%

75% of Eau Claire residents say their neighborhood is an excellent or good place to live. Not bad at all. But what is the other 25% looking to change or add? Here are ten great ideas.

95%

A whopping 95% of Eau Claire residents say their neighborhood is safe during the day. Not surprising considering the area is somewhat famous for its safety.

37%

Only 37% of Eau Claire residents talk or visit with neighbors at least a few times a week. This isn't great. We can do better – and we should. Start here.

18

The number of officially designated neighborhood associations in the city of Eau Claire. Do you live in one of these neighborhoods? Find out.

5

Eau Claire originally had five neighborhood associations: Historic Randall Park, Mt. Washington, North River Fronts, North Side Hill, and Third Ward. Here's how you can start your own.

Check out a few more local and national neighborhood statistics in Volume One's new Rebuilding Our Neighborhoods issue.

*Sources: City of Eau Claire; National Citizen Survey of Eau Claire (2012)

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Monday, Sep. 22nd, 2014

6 films shot in Wisconsin: ’90s Edition

Post fireball, Keanu Reeves rides a motorbike straight into our lil' ol' Sconnie hearts in 1996's Chain Reaction.
Post fireball, Keanu Reeves rides a motorbike straight into our lil' ol' Sconnie hearts
in 1996's Chain Reaction.

Filmed in Wisconsin: ’90s Edition! Apparently the 1990s was a special time when Wisconsin and filmmakers joined hands and decided to create magic together. Granted, Wisconsinites may not want to be associated with many of the movies coming from this partnership, but with so many movies, there’s gotta something for everyone. 

1. I Love Trouble (1994)

Where in WI? Baraboo and Madison
According to IMDB, the keywords to describe this film are as follows: reporter, train, scoop, rivalry, hormone, and “man with glasses.” You really don’t need to know anything else. Watch!

2. The Straight Story (1999)

Where in WI? Mount Zion and Prairie Du Chien
A David Lynch directorial project, this film was based off a true story of a man journeying across the Midwest – via lawn mower – to reconnect with his brother. That’s right; he hooked up a trailer to his mower and put-put-putted his way into everybody’s heart. Watch!

3. Fever Lake (1996)

Where in WI? Twin Lakes and Kenosha
This movie ... isn’t good. But, Mario Lopez and Corey Haim were in it, and that’s enough for me. P.S. Try and look past the pixels in the preview. Watch!

1990's Meet the Applegates
Oh the high jinks they're about to enjoy in 1990's Meet the Applegates.

4. Meet the Applegates (1990)

Where in WI? Neenah and Oshkosh
A black-comedy about bugs in disguise as a suburban family, this movie boasts an impressive 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently this film isn’t for everyone. Watch!

5. A Simple Plan (1998)

Where in WI? Ashland
After discovering a bag full of cash, these blue-collar fellas get some pretty exciting lives. Initially, Ben Stiller was to direct and Nicolas Cage to star. Can we just take a moment and imagine the possibilities? Watch!

6. Chain Reaction (1996)

Where in WI? Lake Geneva, Madison, Williams Bay
Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman, could you ask for a better combo? This sci-fi, action flick got sneaky and used our state’s capitol building to pose as the capitol building’s interior. But you can’t fool us, Keanu! Watch!

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Sunday, Sep. 21st, 2014
Saturday, Sep. 20th, 2014

Saturday Event Picks (Sept. 20)

Today! International Fall Festival returns to downtown Eau Claire! Details below.
Today! International Fall Festival returns to downtown Eau Claire! Details below.

From early in the morning and into the night – a lot of fine quality events occurring on Saturday. Wanna know what they are? Of course you do. Our picks are below. Check out the rest of Saturday here.

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Wednesday, Sep. 17th, 2014

5 waterways called the Chippewa River

The Chippewa River. The Michigan one.
Behold! The majestic Chippewa River! (The one in Michigan.)

We all like to feel special and unique (and even one-of-a-kind), and that need to be different often extends to the place we live – and what's in it. If you can identify with this, we've got bad news for you – at least one local waterway isn't all that special.

1. Chippewa River (Wisconsin)

We’ll start with the Chippewa River we’re all familiar with, the one that carved our lovely valley and gave it a name. The Mighty Chip runs for 183 miles – from Sawyer County*, through Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, and finally Durand – before joining the Mississippi. Now known for providing beautiful recreational opportunities, it once was a “logger’s paradise,” providing a watery highway for the astonishing 46 billion board feet of timber in the territory it drained.

2. Chippewa River (Minnesota)

Our western neighbor also has a waterway bearing the name “Chippewa.” It winds through the farm country of southwestern Minnesota before emptying into the Minnesota River. Before white settlers named it the Chippewa, the Dakota people called it Maya-waka-wapan, which means “remarkable river with steep places,” a description that fits Wisconsin’s Chippewa, too.

3. Chippewa River (Michigan)

This Chippewa River runs for 92 miles through central Michigan. It’s perhaps most notable for the 1,300-acre Chippewa Nature Center on its banks, as well as The Tridge, a three-way footbridge astride the confluence of the Chippewa and Tittabawassee rivers in Midland.

4. Chippewa River (Ontario)

The Canadians have a Chippewa River, too. This one flows into a bay connected to Lake Superior about 25 miles from the city of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. It’s even got a picturesque, 25-foot-high falls – called Chippewa Falls, naturally – though there’s no brewery in sight.

5. Chippewa Creek (Ohio)

Yes, it’s technically a creek, but this 8-mile-long waterway is still important. It runs through the suburbs of Cleveland and into Cuyahoga Valley National Park, where it joins the Cuyahoga River. If that name sounds familiar, it should: The Cuyahoga is the river that was so polluted it literally caught on fire in 1969.

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Tuesday, Sep. 16th, 2014

Eau Claire ranked 59th most livable city in the United States

Image: Market & Johnson
Image: Market & Johnson

In their second annual ranking of small to mid-sized cities in the United States, website Livability.com has ranked little ol' Eau Claire as the 59th most "livable city" in the United States. Their Top 100 Best Places to Live list was published Monday, with Eau Claire being one of only three Sconnie cities to make the cut.

The online publication, which "explores what makes small-to-medium sized cities great places to live" through proprietary research studies* looked at over 2,000 cities (population 20,000–350,000) across 30 states. Cities were scored on eight different criteria (see below). Those scores are aggregated into a final score for each city. Eau Claire scored a total of 628 based on these individual numbers:

Eau Claire's "Livability" Scores

Economics: 71
Health Care: 75
Housing: 82
Social/Civic capital: 67
Education: 61
Amenities: 56
Demographics: 43
Infrastructure: 49
Livability Score: 628

See ranking scores on all cities

Other Wisconsin cities Livability.com ranked in its top 100 included Madison, gobbling up the whole livability enchilada in first place (score: 705). La Crosse came in at 95th (score: 607). Eau Claire appears smack dab between Honolulu, Hawaii and Ashland, Oregon. Here's their little blurb for Eau Claire:

Meaning “clear waters” in French, Eau Claire is situated along the scenic Eau Claire River and bills itself as the Horseradish Capital of the World. The city enjoys a thriving music scene while four colleges serve the community, and its main employment sectors are in health care, retail and education.

 – Livability.com

Hey, it's always fun when people mention the horseradish thing, but since it's a fairly small part of the overall Eau Claire Equation, it would have been nice to see a different nugget of "livable" information crammed in there. That said, ranking in the top 100 on any kind of positive nation-wide survey is always feels good. After all, Livability.com claims that "every city on this list is in the top 5 percent of livable communities in the U.S."

*… of what they call "the best public and private data sources."

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Monday, Sep. 15th, 2014

EC City Council Backs Nonprofit to Run Confluence Arts Center

A look at the recently cleared land on South Barstow Street which would eventually hold the Confluence Project.
A look at the recently cleared land on South Barstow Street which could
eventually hold the Confluence Project.

The Eau Claire City Council once again overwhelmingly voted to back the Confluence Project – the mixed-use, performing-arts focused development slated to be built on the riverfront in downtown Eau Claire. This time, the support came in the form of a 9-2 vote on a resolution that supported the creation of Eau Claire Confluence Inc., a new nonprofit group that is seeking a $25 million grant from the state to fund UW-Eau Claire’s share of the performing arts center’s cost. (The other half of the cost will be funded by donors and local governments.) The City Council also requested that the city be given a seat on the board of the new nonprofit, which will own and operate the arts center. “I think it’s really important that a public body says, ‘Yes we are interested in joining this 501(c)(3) organization, yes let’s put it in writing, and yes let’s make a commitment, and yes we want a voice at the table,’ ” City Coucilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle said. On a separate 8-3 vote, the council approved an amendment to downtown’s Tax Incremental District No. 8. That special tax district will pay for the city’s commitment to the project.

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