Eau Claire was neglected the first time around on MSN’s “coolest cities in the Midwest” list but after receiving loads of feedback, they decided to add us to a second round list (at #5) – largely due to our designation as the “Kubb Capital of North America.” If the long winter of 2013 has stunned your memory, and you don’t recall what “kubb” is, it’s one of the fastest growing lawn sports in the country where, to put it (very) simply, the object is to knock over your opponents’ wooden blocks by throwing wooden batons at them.
The U.S. National Kubb Championship is held in Eau Claire each July and it’s the largest kubb tournament outside of Europe, where the sport began and grows bigger every year. Since the tournament began in 2007, numerous large annual tournaments have sprung up throughout the midwest, and a thriving community of stout-hearted kubb enthusiasts have worked hard to spread the game as far as possible – on neighborhood lawns and city parks, as well as online.
“A few weeks ago, we received an email from MSN stating that they were hoping to get some pictures from the U.S. National Kubb Championship for a piece about cool Midwest cities,” stated Eric Anderson director of the national Tournament. “He said that when they looked at Eau Claire, the Championship stood out as something unique, cool, and that no other community has, and that they would like to highlight it for their page on Eau Claire.”
Although we missed MSN’s first round draft picks, we still find it pretty cool to be recognized. Other cities on the list include Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Duluth, Lawrence, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and the Twin Cities.
The Pinehurst Project is currently in their planning stage. As many of you are aware, the proposed changes to Pinehurst Park (on Eau Claire's North side) include rebuilding, reconstructing, and reinventing the former ski hill to create a site where residents of the Chippewa Valley can have fun and stay active in winter via tubing, alpine skiing, snowboarding. The organizers of the project have created a short survey they would like you and your friends and family to fill out. Your feedback will help them work with the City of Eau Claire as they continue planning for this project.
Link to survey: https://cvtc.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_6rLYXYyUD2bqBlb
Last weekend, a snow-carving team featuring the talents of Eau Claire's own Winter After Hours snow sculptors Jason Anhorn and Steve Bateman – along with Wauwatosa artist Dave Andrews – won first place at the United States National Snow Carving Competition in Lake Geneva, Wis. Their piece was called "Dancing Fire."
It was Andrews’s idea to form the award-winning squad. Bateman and Anhorn had actually competed against (and finished behind) Andrews in past competitions, but their mutual snow-carving respect brought them together after a December phone call from Andrews – a 20 year veteran of the frosty craft who has competed at the US Nationals 10 times.
After viewing two of Andrews’s concept sketches, the three settled on the “Dancing Fire” design. Andrews completed a clay mockup about a week before the competition, which finished on February 2. As Anhorn describes it ...
"We arrived on Tuesday [Jan. 29] in the pouring rain and 60 degree temperatures, with a forecast of cold on it’s way. Wednesday morning at 9am, the event had a kickoff meeting for all of the sculptors. During the meeting, the snow started and the temps dropped and the wind picked up and kept cooling until it was well below zero for the remainder of the event, which is perfect for achieving tight details in snow. The city of Lake Geneva treats the snow sculptors very well, with each team in its own [hotel] suite, 3 gourmet meals a day, new jackets and other perks. Our team got off and running on Wednesday just after the meeting and we never looked back, working late into every night, taking breaks only to warm up our meals. Our families arrived for the weekend and the city of Lake Geneva was very welcoming."
If that weren’t enough, along with its first place designation, the team received seed money to travel to an international competition. Anhorn says they are shooting for the 2014 Olympics in Russia and hoping for a national sponsorship.
Oh, and we should probably also mention that Bateman and two other artists snagged third place at an international competition in Frankenmuth, Mich., only one week prior to the United States Nationals.
Read more to see more pictures ...
Eau Claire’s Mount Simon Park might be expanding in the near future. The city is on track to receive a $166,000 matching grant from the state’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program to help buy 1.2 acres along the park’s northwest side. According to the state Department of Natural Resources, the land will offer an ideal place for hiking, fishing, trapping, cross-country skiing, and biking. The expansion isn’t a done deal, however: The DNR Board must still OK the grant and the city must budget its own matching funds and negotiate purchasing the property from its private owners, says Phil Fieber, city parks director. In other park-related news, Eau Claire’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department is also pondering plans to upgrade Pinehurst Park to improve wintertime recreation there, including making sledding safer and perhaps adding downhill skiing and snowboarding to the mix. A public input session will be held Jan. 16, and the process is expected to take several years.
As you may recall, some winter loving locals are working to hard to revamp Pinehurst Park, converting the ski hill turned sledding hill into to a frosty shangri-la of wintertime activity. A meeting will be held Wednesday, January 16 in the LE Phillips Memorial Public Library (lower level) at 5:30pm. The meeting is a public input session on the changes proposed by the Pinehurst Project, including rebuilding, reconstructing, and reinventing the site to create a park where residents of the Chippewa Valley can have fun and stay active during the cold months via tubing, alpine skiing, snowboarding, and more. Come on out and show your support and add your two cents.