Wednesday, Nov. 15th, 2017

Festivals' Lineups Announced: Blake Shelton to Perform at Country Jam 2018

Blake Shelton at Country Jam 2015
Blake Shelton at Country Jam 2015

Country Jam USA announced Nov. 15 that Blake Shelton, award-winning country music artist and celebrity coach on The Voice, will be returning to their stage this summer.  The festival, which runs July 19-21 just outside Eau Claire, will also feature Justin Moore, Dustin Lynch, Sammy Kershaw, Collin Raye, Aaron Tippin, Tracy Lawrence, Clay Walker, and other acts to be announced later.  Tickets for Country Jam are available now, and scheduled to increase in price on Nov. 28.

Cadott’s Country Fest, which is scheduled to run June 21-23, has a lineup of more than 40 artists, with Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, and Brantley Gilbert headlining. 

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Monday, Nov. 13th, 2017

Confluence Arts Center Announces Naming Rights, New Challenge Grant

Image: Strang
The Royal Credit Union Theatre inside the Confluence Arts Center will seat 1,266 patrons. Image: Strang

The Confluence Arts Center won’t be finished for another 10 months, but donors are already being invited to take a seat – figuratively, at least. And if they make a gift to the downtown Eau Claire project by the end of next August, donors will see their money doubled.

But first, the seats: The Confluence has just announced the Make the Match Chair Campaign, under which donors can sponsor their seats in the Royal Credit Union Theatre, the largest performance space in the arts center. For each $5,000 contribution, a donor receives naming rights (though not sitting rights!) for a seat, said Jason Jon Anderson, acting executive director. Previous contributions will be counted toward the $5,000 figure, so if you’ve already pledged $2,500, for example, another gift of $2,500 will mean your name will be immortalized on a seat.

About 600 of the theater’s 1,266 seats are still available for sponsorship under the new campaign, Anderson said. If every seat is sponsored, the Confluence will receive approximately $3 million in donations, he added.

The final fundraising boost will help ensure that the arts center includes all the features that planners had hoped for. “This would allow us to really deliver everything we want to if those gifts are received by the end of the year,” Anderson said.

New donations will also leverage additional money via a challenge grant. Anderson said that an anonymous donor has offered to match up to $2 million in donations made by Aug. 31, the eve of the arts center’s opening. A similar anonymous challenge grant of $1.5 million was successful last year.

Construction on the approximately $45 million arts center, which will be shared by the community and UW-Eau Claire, is on schedule for the facility’s planned opening next September, Anderson added. In addition to Anderson, who is serving as acting executive director, the Confluence has three employees and hopes to announce the hiring of a director of artistic programming by Dec. 1. Meanwhile, the Confluence Council, which oversees the project, is expected to soon make a decision on how to proceed in its search for a permanent executive director. 

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Wednesday, Oct. 25th, 2017

UPDATE: Confluence Arts Center Executive Director Kevin Miller Resigns

Former Confluence Arts Center Director Kevin Miller
Former Confluence Arts Center Director Kevin Miller

The Confluence Arts Center is in need of a new executive director following the abrupt resignation of Kevin Miller, who was hired for the job less than four months ago.

The Confluence Council, the board that oversees downtown Eau Claire’s still-under-construction arts center, announced the departure Wednesday, stating that Miller’s resignation had been accepted Monday, Oct. 23.

Vicki Hoehn, president of the Confluence Council’s board of directors, said that she was “not at liberty to discuss” the departure because it was a personnel issue. However, she said she didn’t expect the situation to adversely impact the construction of the $45 million arts center. The facility, which will be shared by UW-Eau Claire and community groups, is slated to open in the fall of 2018.

“I think we’re moving forward,” Hoehn said in a telephone interview shortly after the announcement. “The project isn’t one individual. It’s a community and a collaboration, and we can safely say we’re moving forward just as planned.”

The Confluence Council has named Jason Jon Anderson as acting executive director of the arts center. Anderson is currently assistant director of conferences and event production for University Centers at UWEC.

Hoehn said Anderson has been closely involved in the Confluence – he serves on the Confluence Council – and will help keep the project on track. Hoehn added that the Confluence Council will begin searching for a new, permanent executive director as soon as it can. “It took us about four months to do the initial hire, so I assume it will be a similar amount of time,” she said.

Miller, a UWEC alumnus who officially took the helm at the Confluence Arts Center on July 17, had previously been executive director of the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts in Fond du Lac.

We’ll post more information as this story unfolds. The entire press release follows:

The Confluence Council, which oversees operations of the Confluence Arts Center, on Monday, October 23, accepted the resignation of Kevin Miller, the art center’s executive director, effective immediately.

Jason Jon Anderson, assistant director of conferences and event production for University Centers at UW-Eau Claire, now will serve as acting executive director of the Confluence Arts Center.

At UW-Eau Claire, Anderson oversees event production in all University Centers venues, as well as in other performance venues on and off campus. He also is responsible for the development and administration of conferences, camps, campus-wide special events, festivals and other large events held on and off campus. In addition, he is the production director for the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival, and production manager for the band Bon Iver.

The Confluence Council will begin a new search as soon as possible for a permanent executive director.

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Friday, Oct. 6th, 2017

City Seeks Federal Grant to Build 7-Story Mixed-Use Transfer Center

Image: City of Eau Claire, click for a closer look

The City of Eau Claire’s latest plan to replace its antiquated downtown bus transfer center with a mixed-used building hinges on a hard-to-get federal grant, but city officials are hopeful about their chances of winning the funds.

Time is tight to apply for the money: The feds must receive the city’s application for a $5 million TIGER grant by Oct. 16, which explains why plans are being fast-tracked.

Time is tight to apply for the money: The feds must receive the city’s application for a $5 million TIGER grant by Oct. 16, which explains why plans are being fast-tracked. On Thursday, Oct. 5, the city’s Transit Commission unanimously backed seeking the grant, and the City Council will consider a similar vote at its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

The TIGER program (in case you were curious, that stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) offers $500 million for building transportation infrastructure in communities nationwide. Consequently, competition for the grants is tough, and only 6 percent of applicants get a cut of the TIGER cash, explained Tom Wagener, manager of Eau Claire Transit. Nonetheless, Wagener said, “We’re optimistic that we have a project that meets the criteria very well.”

The city’s current proposal, which was developed in recent months, would replace the current bus transfer center with a new building on the same site, the 400 block of South Farwell Street. However, while the present transfer center is little more than a concrete shack built as a temporary structure in 1985, the new facility would be a $21.43 million, seven-story structure. Beyond the hoped-for $5 million federal grant and a $1.25 million match from the city (some of which would cover the cost of four new city buses), the rest of the project’s cost would be paid for by a private developer, Gorman and Co. of Oregon, Wisconsin.

Last year, Gorman was the only developer to respond to the city’s request for proposals to create a mixed-use building that would include a new transfer center. Originally, the city had narrowed its focus to a city-owned parking lot on Farwell Street next to the historic Schlegelmilch House. However, Wagener explained, that site had accessibility problems: Bus riders coming from the downtown area would have to cross busy Farwell Street to get to the transfer center.

Basic site concept from the new downtown Eau Claire bus transfer center, to be built on its current location on S. Farwell Street. (Image: City of Eau Claire, click for a closer look)

“We were trying to come up with a design we thought would work for everybody, and because it was on the opposite side of Farwell Street, we couldn’t get around that issue,” Wagener explained. Over the summer, the city shifted its focus back to the current site.

While the city’s ideas are still preliminary, Wagner said they call for a structure with a ground-floor transfer center above approximately 71 underground parking stalls. (Wagner pointed out this is more parking spots than are provided in the small lot that is now adjacent to the transfer center.) The ground floor might also include offices for the city’s transit division as well as possible commercial space, such as a coffee shop. Above that would be two-story parking ramp, topped by as many as four stories of apartments. Other than the transfer center and the underground parking, which would be owned by the city, the bulk of the facility would be privately owned and operated.

In a best-case scenario, if the city is awarded the grant (a decision is expected by mid-winter), design work could occur early next year and construction could begin as early as late 2018, Wagener said. If the city doesn’t receive the grant, however, the plans will again be put on hold until the next federal grant cycle. Wagener noted that the City of Milwaukee took this approach, and it finally paid off: After applying for the grant annually since 2009, Milwaukee finally won it in 2015.

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S. Carey Collaborates with Dierks Bentley on Only The Brave Soundtrack

Despite not having dropped much new music under his own name, S. Carey is still having quite the year. He appeared on a protest compilation alongside some the biggest names in indie rock, collaborated on a cool track on the latest Teen Daze album, and had a brilliant song called “Brassy Sun” appear on the second season of the Netflix show Flaked. But his latest collaboration might be his biggest yet.

Thursday on The Hollywood Reporter, country music superstar Dierks Bentley premiered the video for a new song, “Hold The Light,” originally written by arey, composer Joe Trapanese, and Jon Randall. “Hold The Light" is set to appear in the forthcoming film Only The Brave – starring Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, Jennifer Connelly, and Miles Teller – and apparently it’s already generating some Oscar buzz in the “Best Original Song” category, which is pretty cool.

The movie tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a crew of Arizona firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect their town from an unimaginable wildfire."The song is special to me because I really connected with the story and tried to put myself in their shoes a little bit, coming from not being wildfire fighters but by being part of their family or something like that,” Carey told The Hollywood Reporter Carey's brother-in-law is a firefighter.

Bentley – who headlined Country Jam this past summer – reworked the song with Carey for the film’s final score and he seemed to enjoy the process. "I’m really happy with the way it turned out. It’s probably one of my favorite recording deals that I’ve had to be a part of, so I’m pretty excited,” Bentley said. 

Only the Brave will hit theaters Oct. 20. Watch the video for "Hold the Light” ...


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Tuesday, Oct. 3rd, 2017

Let There Be Lights: Phoenix Park Bridge Display Ready to Shine

GREEN SCENE. Passersby admire the newly installed LED lights on the Phoenix Park pedestrian bridge. The 172 computer-controlled fixtures are capable of producing 252 million colors. The lights will be officially unveiled in a public performance at 7pm Thursday, Oct. 12. After that, they’ll be illuminated nightly.
GREEN SCENE. Passersby admire the newly installed LED lights on the Phoenix Park pedestrian bridge. The 172 computer-controlled fixtures are capable of producing 252 million colors. The lights will be officially unveiled in a public performance at 7pm Thursday, Oct. 12. After that, they’ll be illuminated nightly.

For a split second, the pedestrian bridge in Phoenix Park went dark, and a handful of people crossing it shouted in confusion. In a dazzling moment, their dismay turned to wonder as the bridge was bathed in gradually shifting color – from emerald to sky blue to indigo and beyond – as 172 computer-controlled LED fixtures turned the 526-foot bridge across the Chippewa River into a massive light sculpture. It was after 8pm on a Wednesday evening in late September, but there were still a handful of passersby in the park, and many of them paused to admire and snap cellphone pictures of the colorful display orchestrated by lighting designer Jason Jon Anderson with the help of a laptop computer.

“This is another great example of campus, community, and private  dollars working together to do something great.” – Jason Jon Anderson, lighting designer, on the Phoenix Park bridge lighting

It was only a small taste of the capabilities of the new lights, which were installed on the converted railroad bridge over the summer as part of a $400,000 donor-funded effort. The project – officially known as The River Lights at Phoenix Park – will be officially unveiled at 7pm Thursday, Oct. 12, with a public performance that will show some (but not all) of the array’s capabilities. After that, the lights will be active each day between half an hour after sunset and 11pm. They’ll turn back on at 5am until sunrise for an early-morning display.

“If you think of this as a light sculpture, the light can move in various ways,” explained Anderson, who among other things services as production director for the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival and production manager for Bon Iver. Colors can ripple from one end of the bridge to the other; it can loop around the bridge; it can pulse in time to music. Each fixture includes red, blue, green, and amber lights, and can be programmed to create a mind-boggling 252 million color options. Essentially, the limits of what can be done with this light sculpture are the limits of an artistic programmer’s imagination.

And the emphasis here is on artistry. This is not a gaudy, casino-style display. The light is directed at the structure of the bridge itself, bringing out the character of the century-old steel beams and the huge concrete piers that hold it up. The light dances on the rippling water below, drawing attention to its ever-changing character. Even during a simple demonstration of the lights’ capabilities, the effect is mesmerizing.

The project is a joint effort by the Rotary Club of Eau Claire, Downtown Eau Claire Inc., UW-Eau Claire, and the City of Eau Claire, as well as hundreds of donors large and small. “This is another great example of campus, community, and private dollars working together to do something great,” Anderson noted. Fundraising is ongoing to cover the final $60,000 of the project’s cost. Contractors from B&B Electric worked over the summer to install the lights, leading to frequent closure of the footbridge. Now that the work is complete, the bridge is again fully open.

“I was exceptionally nervous before we turned them on,” admitted Anderson, who is also assistant director of conferences and event production at UWEC. Because of the metal plates needed to attach the lights to the bridge’s beams, the fixtures are 8 to 9 inches from the bridge’s surface instead of the 6 inches originally planned. Thankfully, the change didn’t impact the quality of the light, he said.

Depending on where they are placed, the fixtures shine light horizontally, vertically, or at an angle along the steel beams. The project was designed to be “dark sky” friendly, meaning it minimizes wasteful light pollution. “There is no light on this project that physically goes into the sky,” Anderson explained.

Images: Jason Jon Anderson
Images: Jason Jon Anderson

Programming the lights isn’t a simple process: It takes about an hour of coding per minute of performance, and Anderson is the only one punching the keys for now. However, he’ll be teaching a theatrical lighting course at UWEC in the spring semester, instructing students how to use the software that controls the lights. Eventually, students will be running the show. In fact, after next year they’ll be able to look upriver from the now-under-construction Confluence Arts Center to see their imagination brought to life. While architectural lighting design is a growing field, it’s never been a specific academic discipline anywhere, Anderson said, which means that UWEC students will be getting a truly unique opportunity. Eventually, he envisions programmable lighting on the exterior of the Confluence Arts Center, in Haymarket Plaza, and on the proposed Haymarket bridge as well. He also hopes that if the city and its residents take a liking to the illuminated bridge they will consider installing similar lights on other bridges in Eau Claire.

Anderson expects the bridge to be synchronized with fireworks on Independence Day and New Year’s Eve. At other times, it could be illuminated in time to music or lit with particular colors or patterns on behalf of sponsors.

Whatever the display, Anderson advises the viewing public to look at the bridge from a variety of vantage points and distances. As with any work of art, this sculpture will give viewers a different impression based upon where they stand.

Ultimately, Anderson wants the community to take a shine to the lights, especially after not being able to bike or walk on the bridge for months. “All I hope is that people walk away and say the inconvenience was worth it,” he said.

If you want to learn more about the project or make a contribution, visit

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Monday, Oct. 2nd, 2017

Nearly 20 National Travel Journalists Are Spending Three Days in Eau Claire

As just one part of their stay, visiting travel journalists visited The Local Store to meet some of the area's makers and craftspeople.  
As just one part of their stay, visiting travel journalists visited The Local Store to meet some of the area's makers and craftspeople.  

This week (Sunday–Wednesday) nearly 20 regional and national travel journalists and bloggers are spending three days together in and around Eau Claire on a specially coordinated series of tours through some of our community’s hotels, restaurants, breweries, attractions, retailers, trails, art studios, and more. The event is something the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and their partners have been organizing in different areas in the state for many years – but this is the first time they’ve chosen to bring this highly valuable meetup to our area. To make it all possible, they collaborated with our own local tourism agency Visit Eau Claire to create an ambitious itinerary showing off some of the city's latest developments as well as longtime favorites in our neck of the woods.

These journalists contribute to a variety of travel and lifestyle publications including USA Today, Better Homes and Gardens, Global Traveler, Chicago Tribune, Orbitz Travel, AAA Midwest Traveler, StyleBlueprint, Outdoor Families, and many more. The idea is to create authentic local experiences for these travel tastemakers so they head home inspired to include the Eau Claire area in future coverage of travel destinations, trends, and opportunities. As I’ve written about in recent weeks, the glowing press about the growth in our community continues to pour in – beyond anything we’ve seen in recent decades – and an event like this is likely to amplify that even further in the coming months.

I've been fortunate to spend some time speaking to the group on a couple of occasions during their visit. While my pride for the area was likely apparent, I also stressed that the people who live here every day know there is plenty of work yet to be done. And that’s part of what’s most exciting about our current situation – as small as we are, we’re still very much a place on the rise. Good things are happening all around, yes – but we also know where we fall short, and in many cases someone somewhere is already working on it. There’s still space for new ideas, new people, and new energy. There’s still time to be part of the story. As for what story these national journalists will eventually tell, we’ll have to wait and see. But in the meantime, let’s keep building. And may we never reach the finish line.

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Friday, Sep. 29th, 2017

UPDATED: Shanghai Bistro to Reopen?

Shanghai Sushi
Shanghai Sushi

UPDATED: Friday, Sept. 29 - 4pm

Owner of Local Favorite Shanghai Bistro Wants to Reopen

According to Shanghai Bistro owner Henry Chan, "When Shanghai opened in 2004 sushi was not mainstream. Sushi was very new and exotic in Eau Claire. As Eau Claire's first sushi bar, we talked to a lot of people and suggested they try sushi. One of the most memorable comments we heard often was 'Sorry. We don't eat our bait.'" 

His chefs would prepare a half pint of spicy tuna mix – one of the sushi world's most popular varieties – only to throw the whole thing away. But they kept at it, and eventually Shanghai Bistro (and its sister eatery in Hudson) would go through a whole pint in an hour. By the time the restaurant closed its doors in 2016, things had changed. Sushi had became a relatively common item at asian restaurants in the area and the restaurant had found a loyal customer base attracted to its American-Chinese menu and yes, its sushi. Yet Shanghai still closed. Chan had started other businesses outside of his native Chippewa Valley, and his mother, who'd been running the restaurant in his stead, was ready to retire.

Chan says that while nothing is set in stone, he'd like to reopen the restaurant around the first of the year, with a refresh of both the interior and the exterior.

Now that loyal customer base has reason to rejoice. After months of Chan's mother prodding him to find a way to reopen, Chan, who still owns Shanghai's building at 2930 Craig Road, returned to Eau Claire for a short visit in late September. He hadn't really seen the city in a few years, and driving around town, he was amazed at the recent changes – downtown’s development and a bunch of new, ambitious restaurants. He'd also been keeping tabs on the national attention Eau Claire has received over the past year and a half. All of this boiled down to a big decision: Shanghai Bistro will reopen its doors.

Chan says that while nothing is set in stone, he'd like to reopen the restaurant around the first of the year, with a refresh of both the interior and the exterior. As for the menu, Chan knows he needs to bring back the old favorites – the Chinese dishes and sushi rolls and appetizers that kept people coming back. But he'd also like to offer dishes new to the area. He's experimented with a modern fusion menu at Hudson's Shanghai, seeing what works and what falls flat, and he hopes to liven things up in Eau Claire with a rotating menu of more complex, seasonal edo-style sushi in addition to the standards.

Time will tell how every thing shakes out, but Chan believes the time is right to give Eau Claire – its people and their tastes – another try.

Friday, Sept. 29 - 8:45am

If  Shanghai Bistro's Facebook page is to be believed, the beloved Eau Claire sushi and asian eatery at 2930 Craig Road (which closed last year) will reopen in 2018. From a post on Sept. 28:

When Shanghai opened in 2004 sushi was not mainstream. Sushi was very new and exotic in Eau Claire. As Eau Claire's first sushi bar we talked to [a lot] of people and suggested they try sushi. One of the most memorable comments we [heard] often was " sorry we don't eat our bait"! Fast forward a decade and sushi is now on a staple. Get ready for a new menu that will again bring new flavors to our little town.

And from their Facebook about page ...

This is the original Shanghai Bistro. Established June 4th 2004. Shanghai Bistro is Eau Claire's oldest family owned and operated full service restaurant specializing in American Chinese with sushi. We closed August 2016, but with much [fanfare] we have decided to re-open in 2018 with a new menu.

Se get ready to rejoice, Shanghai lovers.

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Tuesday, Sep. 26th, 2017

YOU: Eau Claire Wants Your Input on Bicycle Issues

Are you a fan of two-wheeled, self-propelled transportation? Do you have opinions on the best and safest ways to pedal around Eau Claire? If so, the City of Eau Claire wants to hear from you. The city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is in the process of updating its Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, and as part of that effort city planners are revising a map of recommended bicycle routes around town. Take a gander at the proposed routes in this PDF map and then give your feedback to Pat Ivory, senior planner for the city, at or by calling (715) 839-4914.

As part of updating the plan, the committee is also revising a list of 24 parts of town – from North Dewey Street to Jeffers Road – that have “unique issues relative to the pedestrian and bicycle environment” that the city should address. Bicyclists and pedestrians are also invited to peruse and comment on this list, which can also be found online. The city asks that you make your comments by Monday, Oct. 16. After that they’ll be shared with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

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Tuesday, Sep. 19th, 2017

The Night Market – An Indoor-Outdoor Maker Market and Sale Series

Friday nights Sept. 22 – Oct. 20 • 6pm-9pm • @The Local Store and Volume One Gallery and Courtyard! • 15% OFF STOREWIDE • Every Week: local makers • local food trucks • fire pit • live music • hot cider & snack samples • pre-holiday savings

Volume One and The Local Store are excited to bring back the Night Market – an indoor/outdoor “maker market” and sale series on Friday nights, Sept. 22 – Oct. 20, from 6-9pm. Each night, we'll feature 4–6 different local makers – themselves and their products – in the Volume One Gallery. During the event, we'll also set up a fire pit in our courtyard area, invite local food trucks, host live acoustic music, and serve hot cider and snack samples. Simultaneously, all regular Local Store merchandise is 15% OFF during the Night Market!

See the full schedule of this year's makers, performers, and food trucks!

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