Wednesday, Sep. 10th, 2014

Does it feel chilly in here?

And by "here" we mean "Wisconsin." There are few things more cozy than wrapping yourself in a hoodie on a cold Wisconsin day. The Local Store offers a selection of warm, comfy sweatshirts to do just that in. For instance, stay cozy while showing your EC pride in this supersoft hoodie. Learn more.

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Friday, Sep. 5th, 2014

Kubb sets are back in stock!

Kubb sets are back! We had a kubb drought for a while there, but now we're fully re-stocked with the Chippewa Valley's favorite lawn sport. And to celebrate, we've added a great deal:

Buy a kubb set NOW through September 30,
get 15% off the rest of your purchase

Eau Claire is the proud home of the U.S. National Kubb Championship and is the official "Kubb Capital of North America" – which makes this combination bowling-horseshoes-lawn game a proud part of our local culture. And The Local Store now has three varieties of kubb sets available!

The Madwood Kubb Set is a regulation size set made from 100% solid hardwood pine and is sourced directly from Eau Claire's Kubb Farm ($65). The regulation size Capital Kubb Set is made from 100% hard poplar wood and locally made in Augusta, Wis. ($100). Finally the gorgeous Walnut Kubb Set is perfect for players who want to take their game to the next level – and look good doing it! Get your set from The Local Store and embrace Eau Claire's love for kubb!

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5 Wisconsin “Capitals” of ... stuff

Do a bunch of black squirrels make a capital? Norwalk, Wisconsin thinks so.
Do a bunch of black squirrels make a capital? Norwalk, Wisconsin thinks so.

It’s been said that Wisconsin is home to more self-proclaimed capitals than any other state. Does this mean we’re a delusional bunch of cheese mongers who constantly feel the need to feel special and unique? Nah, I think it just means we’re enthusiastic. So, until proven otherwise, here are five “capitals” found right here in Wisconsin.

1. Mount Horeb, aka “Troll Capital of the World”

With a hearty Scandinavian heritage, it’s not all that surprising that trolls have found themselves quite popular here, but it takes more than popularity to make a “world capital.” It was when a bypass around this fair city threatened an economic turn for the worse – and the “Trollway” was invented as the town’s savior – that true homage had to be paid.

2. Muscoda, aka “Wisconsin’s Morel Capital”

Appears legitimate.
Appears legitimate.

Everyone enjoys some good fungus and what better fungus than the morel mushroom? This tasty little morsel found a happy home in the city of Muscoda, and not only led to the city’s Morel Capital moniker, but also its very own fungal festival. Personally, all I think they’re lacking is a Muscoda morel mascot.

3. Norwalk, aka “Black Squirrel Capital of the World”

Although it’s a small village, Norwalk proudly boasts this claim on its website for all to see. While their confidence is admirable, the competition for black squirrel recognition is both heated and intense. Take for instance Marsville, KS, who has the black squirrel as their mascot, and what about London, Ontario, who produced their own music video dedicated to the little fella? Norwalk needs to up the ante.

4. Green Bay, aka “Toilet Paper Capital of the World”

While this city is more notably associated with a certain sports team, it isn’t shy about its toilet paper history either. Home to the first splinter-free toilet paper, it’s fair to say we have them to thank for our modern comfort.

5. Belleville and Elmwood, aka “UFO Capital(s) of the World”

While most people associate Rosewell with UFO activity, these two Wisconsin cities have been claiming the same title. Now if we were to put these two up against each other, I believe it’s important to note that while Belleville celebrates “UFO Day,” Elmwood has “UFO Days.” Three days as opposed to one … so I think we know where the passion lies.

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Thursday, Aug. 28th, 2014

Here's what the Confluence mixed use building might look like

Image: Commonweal Wheel Development
Click for a closer look. | Image: Commonweal Development

Now that demolition is almost complete on the future site of the Confluence Project in downtown Eau Claire, we’re getting a better idea at what might be built there, and debates about its appearance have begun. A new architectural rendering from Commonweal Development shows a six-story multiuse building that will include 34,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor – including space for restaurants (as many as three) and offices – as well as 119 units of student-oriented housing and underground parking. While the design is by no means final, it gives the public a clearer idea of what the privately built, privately funded part of the Confluence Project will look like. (Meanwhile, the drive continues to fund the proposed public-private performing arts center next door.)

The developer’s plan still must get the OK from a pair of city panels. First up is the Waterways and Parks Commission, which studied plans Wednesday (Aug. 27), asked questions, and decided to collect more information before making up its collective mind. Dan Clumpner of Commonweal Development said commission members as well as residents who spoke at the meeting focused on how the new building would fit in with Barstow Street’s historic architecture,   how the structure would look from the nearby Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers, and how planned pedestrian and bike paths would connect with existing trails. Clumpner said Commonweal will address these and other concerns at a future Waterways and Parks Commission meeting as well as before the Plan Commission, which is tentatively expected to consider the project on Sept. 15. While the Waterways and Parks Commission’s eventual decision will be advisory, the Plan Commission has jurisdiction to approve, reject, or ask for changes to the site plan.

The buildings on the future multiuse site have been demolished in recent weeks, with the last of them – 2 S. Barstow St., also known as the “mural building” for the paintings that covered its boarded-up windows in recent years – slated to come down in the next few days. Clumpner says site prep work and construction are schedule to start this fall, with a completion date for the multiuse building planned for June 2016.

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Cheeseheads take the cake!

ESPN has made it official – the Green Bay Packers have the best fans in the NFL. According to a recent post, market researcher Nielsen Scarborough ranked the fans of every NFL team in a number of categories and the loyal Cheeseheads came out – decidedly – on top.

Scarborough’s research showed that only 16 percent of adults living in Green Bay are not fans of the team. But, as we all know, it’s not just the Green Bay citizens that bleed yellow and green. The Packers have an incredible 4.4 million followers on Facebook and 701,000 on Twitter. Clearly, their fan base reaches far beyond even Wisconsin – proof that Packer fans are one of a kind. And, all statistics aside, what other NFL fan base could touch a Cheesehead tailgate?

Pack fans were followed in ranking by the Denver Broncos and the New Orleans Saints, but we can’t say we’re surprised that Wisconsin takes the top spot. After all, you don’t win 13 championships without some intensely loyal fans backing you up.

Win Packers Tickets!

Volume One and Mega Co-Op are teaming up to give away a pair of FREE (and fantastic) Packers tickets for the 2014 home opener against the New York Jets on Sept. 14 at legendary Lambeau Field. Deadline: Midnight September 11

>> Go here and enter to win!

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Wednesday, Aug. 27th, 2014

6 Wisconsin definitions ... from Urban Dictionary

Urban Dictionary is a word-defining website where the public writes the definitions, and I meticulously read through the 66 definitions available for “Wisconsin” ... and have learned a great many things. For instance, according to definition 45, Wisconsin is "much like a unicorn and doesn’t exist." The complete list is not for the faint of heart, so here is a spattering of homemade definitions and examples supplied by anonymous internet users to give you a taste. 

Definition 27: THE BEST PLACE ON EARTH!!

Used in a Sentence: Where were you last week? The best place on Earth! You must have been in Wisconsin.
The Takeaway
: Wisconsin is globally renowned and there’s probably someone in Iceland talking about us right now and referring to us as “the best place on Earth!”  

Definition 44: Illinois' Largest State Park. A great place to visit when you've done all the cool things in Chicago.

Used in a Sentence: "Hey, let's get in the VistaCruiser and go to Wisconsin this weekend: they still have trees!"
The Takeaway
: Wisconsin has trees.

Definition 54: A Province within the United States of a America

Used in a Sentence: I ate cheese in Wisconsin.
The Takeaway
: Not only are we a state, but a province as well. And we have cheese.

Definition 42: THE MOST UNDER-APPRECIATED STATE IN THE U.S.A! We make the cheese and the milk AND THE CREAM PUFFS!... the Jonas Brothers Favorite State to come to on tour!

The Takeaway: If the Jonas Brothers like it, there really is no question.

Definition 43: …They make Miller beer, Harley motorcycles, and light switches…

Used in a Sentence: I'd take WI over Florida anyday. But I'd probably take the U.P. over Wisconsin.
The Takeaway
: Despite the other definition clearing stating Wisconsin is cooler than Michigan, it appears that didn’t include the U.P.

Definition 3: Shut up..Wisconsin is cool

Used in a Sentence: It's cool in's cooler than Michigan.
The Takeaway
: Some people love Wisconsin so much, they feel no need to explain themselves. 

Bonus Feature!

Words Related to Wisconsin: Milwaukee, Beer, Cheese, Illinois, Packers, Midwest, Drunk

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Tuesday, Aug. 26th, 2014

The United States ... ranked by beer

Infographics don't lie. Image.
Infographics don't lie. Image.

This one website ranked the States of the Union according to their regional beer offerings (and beery culture), and while there's no reason to take it seriously, they ranked Wisconsin at number seven. So, that's cool. We got beat by Vermont, Washington, Michigan, Colorado, California, and ... Oregon. had this to say:

7. Wisconsin

There was a time when Milwaukee made approximately every beer consumed by every man who came home from work with grease on his shirt. Today, those canned brands of yesteryear are dead, or sold off and made in, like, California. But the Brothers Leinenkugel are statewide icons, New Glarus’ Spotted Cow is the first beer referenced by cheeseheads everywhere (even though nobody can get it outside the state), the baseball team’s name is the damn Brewers, and there used to be an urban legend that Miller Park’s taps were fueled by a beer pipe that ran directly from the brewery. An urban legend we will perpetuate, right here. Miller Park’s taps are fueled by a beer pipe that runs directly from the brewery!

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Thursday, Aug. 21st, 2014

Regents High-Five Confluence Project, Will Seek State Grant Funding

The UW System Board of Regents has once again given a big thumbs-up to the Confluence Project. In a unanimous vote at their meeting Thursday in Oshkosh, the Regents directed System President Ray Cross to work with state officials to get funding for the joint university-community performing arts center included in the state’s 20015-17 budget. The money won’t come through the UW System’s part of the budget, however: Instead, it will be via what’s called the “non-state agency grant program,” which has been used to fund community projects statewide, such as Medical College of Wisconsin construction and a Green Bay convention center.

“This is great news and gives us a very defined direction as we proceed in the next steps to secure state funding for the Confluence Project, which has been the goal since the project was first announced in May 2012,” UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt said in a press release. “We will work closely with UW System, our local partners and the Department of Administration to complete the nonstate agency grant application by the Sept. 12 deadline.”

The project earned praise from Regina Millner, vice president of the Board of Regents. “Based on my decades of experience in business, real estate and community leadership, I understand the power of the public-private partnerships,” she said, according to a press release. “They create jobs and stimulate the creation and expansion of other businesses. They directly and indirectly improve a region’s quality of life.

“The Confluence Project will turn a blighted industrial parcel into a vibrant, job-creating center of activity,” she added. “It will provide multiple benefits to the community and provide immediate and long-term benefits to the region’s economy. It will also leverage private-sector and philanthropic investments.”

While UWEC and its partners originally had considered pursuing funding for the project directly through the UW System budget, going the nonstate grant route became an option after it was suggested in June by Gov. Scott Walker, who endorsed the project.

The state’s share of the roughly $50 million performing arts center still must make it through the state budget process, including getting approval from the state building commission, the Legislature, and ultimately the governor (whoever that happens to be next year). The other half of the arts center’s cost will be funded by private donations and local government contributions. The arts center and an adjacent mixed-use development, which will include privately operated student housing, will be built on South Barstow Street.

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Monday, Aug. 18th, 2014

UWEC will seek Confluence funds through state grant, not UW System

Things are changing on S. Barstow Street downtown. The last business to be located in this, um, hole was Obsession Chocolate. More facades will be coming down this week ...
Things are changing along S. Barstow St. near the Eau Claire River – the location for the proposed Confluence Project. The last business to be located in what's now a big gap was Obsession Chocolates. (Photo taken Aug. 14)

The road toward building the Confluence performing arts center has been a long one, and it will soon take a new twist: UW-Eau Claire won’t be seeking its share of the public-private arts center’s cost through the UW System budget. Instead, state funding will be pursued through a separate mechanism called a “non-state grant.” What’s that, exactly? Such grants typically are used for projects that benefit the public but that are outside state agencies, in the past, that’s included a Medical College of Wisconsin project and a Green Bay convention center. At their meeting in Oshkosh Thursday, Aug. 21, the UW System Board of Regents is expected to pass a resolution authorizing System President Ray Cross to work with the state Department of Administration to get the funding in the state’s 2015-17 budget. Originally, UWEC had planned to seek $25 million directly from the UW System. The new request will still go through the typical state budget process – including passing muster at the state building commission, the governor’s office, and the state Legislature – but the funds will come in the form of a grant to the downtown performing arts building’s owner, which would be a yet-to-be-created private entity, not the state or UWEC. The change in funding was first suggested in June by Gov. Scott Walker, who supports the project. As previously planned, private donations and local governments will pay the remainder of the performing arts center’s price tag.

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‘High Bridge’ Restoration Project OK’d


The so-called “high bridge” that towers over the Chippewa River just downstream from the Xcel Energy dam in Eau Claire will soon be part of the city’s extensive trail system. On Aug. 12, the Eau Claire City Council voted unanimously to accept a $1.15 million bid to transform the 19th-century iron railroad bridge, which hasn’t been used for decades, into a 21st-century thoroughfare for bicyclists and pedestrians. The work will be more expensive than originally envisioned, however: A few years ago, the city budgeted about $600,000 for the project, but inflation in construction costs caused that figure to balloon. The good news: A $494,000 state grant will cover a good chunk of the original estimated cost. The bad news: That leaves another half a million dollars the city will have to pull out of an account set aside for bridge repair. City engineer David Solberg told the council that the city should be able to trim the cost down a little by using surplus parts from a previous bridge project as well as modifying some materials in the bid. Eventually, the bridge will be linked to the rest of the city’s trail system via a yet-to-be-built path along Forest Street toward Phoenix Park. In the meantime, construction by Pember Companies of Menomonie will begin in the fall, and by next year the bridge will give Eau Clairians a great new way – with a really great new view – of crossing the river.

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