Tuesday, Feb. 27th, 2018
The Metro – downtown Eau Claire's newest live music venue – is the new host of legendary Eau Claire festival Decadent Cabaret, where dozens of local bands come together and play tribute sets of their favorite artists. The organizers just released the full lineup of bands for the 39th installment of the weekend-long event on March 1-3.
Thursday: Wayward, Chamber Noise, Orenda Fugue, The Lie, John Buxton Experience, Squatting Walnut, Robin Mink, Typecats.
Friday: The Jaggernauts, Jim Pullman Band, Beercan Pentagram, Yam Cannon, Filthy Sweet, AM Up, Irie Sol, Idle Empress, Arms Aloft, picard, Pit Wagon.
Saturday: Venison, Screemo, Drunk Drivers, Not Picard, Twisted Rhythm, Giants of Midgard, DiY DaIsY, Paint Dry, Contingency, Lizzy Diance, The Ronald Raygun, FMDown, Fathom, Distant Friends, Skully Jones.
AND! For the first time in years, Decadent will be an 18+ event. The Torch Sisters will perform each night and Artisan Forge Studios will provide art installations. Learn more on the Facebook or at the website. More details below ...
Monday, Feb. 26th, 2018
What does managing a world-touring, Grammy-winning rock band have in common with running for Congress? More than you might think, says Kyle Frenette, who has done both.
While his congressional bid only began on Thursday, Frenette has managed Justin Vernon’s band Bon Iver for more than a decade, making a name for himself in the music industry at a young age and establishing his own management firm, Middle West. Now, at age 30, he’s a newly minted Democratic candidate in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, which is currently represented by Republican Sean Duffy.
“Setting up a political campaign is pretty similar to setting up an album campaign,” Frenette said in a telephone interview. “You’re promoting a message. You’re putting yourself out there while doing your best to maintain integrity and promote a specific vision, make a statement.”
In this case, of course, the statement is political, not artistic. While the Chippewa Falls native has always been interested in politics, he says he was galvanized by the 2016 election to become active. He moved back to the 7th Congressional District – he now lives outside Chetek – and began planning a bid for office. Networking skills honed in years in the music business have been helpful, Frenette says. And, he adds, the leadership skills he has exercised guiding the meteoric success of Bon Iver and creating his own business will come into play if he is elected in November.
First he needs to win the Aug. 14 Democratic primary, which will include at least five candidates from the sprawling district, which covers a huge part of northern and central Wisconsin, from Hudson east to Wausau and north to Superior. If he’s successful in the primary, he’ll have to win a Nov. 6 general election against Duffy, a four-term Republican incumbent with his own show-business bona fides: He was a cast member of MTV’s "The Real World" – on top of being a competitive lumberjack and a district attorney.
Frenette describes himself as a political progressive who is aiming for a “bottom-up approach” to politics. He says his campaign will be based upon creating better jobs, universal health care, education, and environmental protection.
“I think what we’re seeing in this country as a result of the last election is a moment not only to hold politicians like Donald Trump and Sean Duffy accountable to their vice-grip policies, policies that represent the few and the special interests, but also to elect candidates that can uphold progressive and bold change to point this country back in a direction that is a bit more favorable to all people,” Frenette says. “There’s a real moment here in 2018, and I saw an opportunity to step up and use my platform. I’m shooting for the stars for this, but that is my nature.”
Frenette has a challenge ahead of him. While the 7th Congressional District was represented by Democrat David Obey for 42 years, after than 2010 census the district’s boundaries were redrawn, making it heavily Republican. (Duffy was re-elected in 2016 with 62 percent of the vote, and Trump won the district by a 20-point margin over Hillary Clinton.) However, Frenette sees positive signs in the results of elections in Virginia, Alabama, and even Wisconsin’s 10th State Senate District, where previously Republican seats have shifted to Democrats. After the nation’s political pendulum swung rightward in 2016, some of those who elected Republicans are now choosing differently, he says.
“I have the opportunity to use my platform to spread good. that’s what I’ve always been about. That’s what Justin (Vernon) has always been about – giving back to the place that raised us: northwestern Wisconsin, and Wisconsin as a whole,” Frenette says. “And two, I represent this country’s new generation. A generation that sees that our politicians have been bought and sold for too long.”
Now that he’s officially a candidate, Frenette is is planning a listening tour of all of the district’s 26 counties. He’s optimistic about the reception he’s received so far as a candidate. “I’m waiting for the negative things to be written, and that’s sure to come, but so far it’s been positive and reassuring for me in making this decision and flipping my life upside down in order to do this,” he says.
Tuesday, Feb. 20th, 2018
1. L.E. PHILLIPS
You’ll find Lewis E. Phillips’ name on more high-profile Chippewa Valley facilities than any other, including Eau Claire’s public library, the senior center, a drug and alcohol treatment center, a career development center, a Boy Scout camp, and more. An immigrant from Lithuania who became a major Eau Claire industrialist, Phillips established Ed Phillips & Sons in 1918 and became president of National Presto Industries in 1942. Though he died in 1978, the L.E. Phillips Foundation and other charitable foundations associated with his family have donated many millions over the years to local causes.
2. JOHN MENARD
Known best for founding the home improvement chain that bears his name – which includes more than 280 stores across 14 states – as well as for sponsoring auto racing, Menard has also opened his wallet for several major community endeavors. You’ll see his name on the Menard Center for Emergency Care at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire as well as on the Eau Claire YMCA’s soon-to-be completed Menard Family Tennis Center.
3. HENRY PUTNAM
Putnam was a land speculator and lumberman who made his fortune in Eau Claire in the latter half of the 19th century. After contributing to all that timber cutting, Putnam became a conservationist and donated the 230-acre Putnam Park to the City of Eau Claire in 1909. The park was transferred from the city to UW-Eau Claire in 1957, and later it became a Wisconsin State Natural Area. Today Putnam Park is a unique urban nature preserve and provides a home for hundreds of plant and animal species, research opportunities for UWEC students, and a tranquil place to take a stroll for people of all ages.
4. WILLIAM H. HOBBS
Way back in 1885, William Hobbs founded a wholesale and retail supply company in Eau Claire. Among other things, the W.H. Hobbs Supply Co. operated the city’s first auto dealership and garage, the Eau Claire Mill Supply Co., and the Phoenix Manufacturing Co. Hobbs’ heirs created the Hobbs Foundation, which over a 35-year period gave out $5 million to community causes, including for the Hobbs Ice Center in Eau Claire and Hobbs Altoona Sports Center.
5. DENNIS HEYDE
Entrepreneur and Chippewa Falls native Dennis Heyde has been involved with numerous businesses, ranging from health care to travel to hospitality, including Fanny Hill Dinner Theatre. He also was a benefactor of the Chippewa Valley Cultural Association, which renovated the former McDonell Memorial High School in Chippewa Falls and reopened it in 2000 as the Heyde Center for the Arts.
Friday, Feb. 16th, 2018
Chippewa Valley, say hello to Pablo.
With a $5 million donation, a newly formed philanthropic foundation has secured naming rights for downtown Eau Claire’s new performing arts center: The Pablo Center at the Confluence will be the official name of the $60.5 million facility, which is scheduled to open in September. The investment by the Pablo Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Pablo Properties, was announced Feb. 16 at a media event in Eau Claire.
“This arts center being built is a catalyst for everything that’s going on in downtown Eau Claire,” said Zach Halmstad, one of the founding board members of the Pablo Foundation. That includes the formation of Pablo Properties – which, among others things, built the Jamf office building next to Phoenix Park and was involved in remodeling and reopening two downtown hotels.
The joint community-university effort to build a performing arts center overlooking the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers was dubbed the Confluence Project when it was announced in 2012, and the building that is now rising has generally been called the Confluence Arts Center. However, naming rights were available to a $5 million donor, said Jason Jon Anderson, the center’s acting executive director.
The Pablo Center at the Confluence released this special video Friday
The Pablo name will join those of other businesses who have made major gifts toward the arts center, including Royal Credit Union, Jamf, physicians from Oakleaf Surgical Hospital, Market & Johnson, Orgel Wealth Management, Lasker Jewelers, BMO Harris Bank, and Commonweal Development Corp. Twenty-seven other naming opportunities remain for those who donate between $100,000 and $500,000. Anderson said that additional philanthropy, coupled with grants, should fill the $7.2 million gap that remains to fully complete the arts center, including lighting and audio equipment and furniture.(The arts center’s final price tag has fluctuated. Previously, it was stated as $45 million, but that figure was for what would have essentially been an empty shell of a building without the necessary equipment, Anderson explained.)
The project is quickly moving toward another major announcement: As early as Feb. 22, the Confluence Council – the body that will operate the center – expects to announce the hiring of an executive director for the Pablo Center, said Brady Foust, a member of the council’s board of directors. Anderson has filled the role on an interim basis since October, when the originally hired executive director, Kevin Miller, resigned.
Pablo Properties and the Pablo Foundation were created by Halmstad, Julia Johnson, and Jason Wudi, all of whom are affiliated with Jamf, the successful Eau Claire-born software firm. Halmstad, Jamf’s co-founder, said the Pablo Foundation will focus its philanthropic efforts on housing, health, education, and the arts in the Chippewa Valley. Donating $5 million to the Confluence is its first major step toward that vision of community improvement.
“The overall goal is creating a healthy and sustainable community – to help close opportunity gaps and help individuals be successful,” Johnson said.
The Pablo Properties’ donation – coupled with previous donations by the trio and their affiliated businesses – makes them the largest single contributor toward the project other than the state of Wisconsin, which budgeted $15 million. Other funding comes from the city and county of Eau Claire, new market tax credits, and private philanthropy. The Confluence Project itself, launched in 2012, drew together UW-Eau Claire, community arts groups, local governments, the business community, and individual donors.
“We’re proud to have our name as part of (the arts center), but really it’s the Confluence Project that made it possible,” she added.
Jerry Jacobson, a member of the board of Eau Claire Confluence Arts Inc., the nonprofit that owns the building, said he was pleased that “Confluence” name will remain part of the facility’s moniker. He said he hopes that inspires other businesses and entities located where the rivers meet to refer to their locations as “at the Confluence,” too.
“We hope that the name serves the project well,” Halmstad added. “We are going to have to get used to it.”
So who’s Pablo? Halmstad, who was a music major at UW-Eau Claire before he started his software firm, said the property company was named after his favorite record label. Starting in the 1970s, Pablo Records put out albums by jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sarah Vaughan – a heritage that fits well with Eau Claire’s status as a jazz hub. And, indirectly, the name comes from that of another legendary artist: Pablo Records was named in honor of Pablo Picasso, as fitting a figure as to inspire an artistic project.
Learn more about the Pablo Foundation and Pablo Properties at pablo.com.
Thursday, Feb. 8th, 2018
Would you be willing to pay a little extra when you eat out or stay in a hotel in Eau Claire to help build a proposed convention center? That’s the gist of a bill pending in the state Legislature, which would allow the cities of Eau Claire and Superior to create special expo center districts funded by new taxes on food, beverages, and hotel rooms.
But before you get excited by the possibility of a shiny new convention center or angry at the thought of new taxes, take a deep breath: This is a long way from happening. The bill still needs to be approved by both the state Assembly and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker, and time is running short: The Legislature is only scheduled to be in floor session 16 more days this year. And even if the bill does become law, the Eau Claire City Council would have to approve a resolution asking for the new taxes and then the majority of Eau Claire voters would have to approve the taxes in a referendum.
1 Cent for Every $4 ... but Only by Referendum
If all that happened, the city could impose a food and beverage tax of 0.25 percent (that’s one-quarter of a percent, or 1 cent for every $4) and a room tax up to 2 percent. According to an estimate by the state Department of Administration, the 0.25 percent food and beverage tax could raise $600,000 annually in Eau Claire, while a 2 percent room tax would raise $470,000 in the city. (The city already imposes an 8 percent room tax, which raises money for Visit Eau Claire, the Hobbs Municipal Ice Center, Fairfax Pool, and other tourism-related activities.)
Presumably, in Eau Claire’s case, the newly collected taxes would help pay for the proposed Sonnentag Event and Recreation Complex, which UW-Eau Claire hopes to build on Menomonie Street. That complex, first announced in 2014, could include a 130,000-square-foot major event center; a recreation center shared by UWEC, the Eau Claire YMCA, and Mayo Clinic Health System; and private development such as a hotel.
The bill’s support among major interest groups is mixed: Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s biggest business organization, the Wisconsin Realtors Association, and numerous Superior-area groups registered to lobby in favor of it (Superior has been pushing for a convention center for years), but the Wisconsin Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus and the Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association registered in opposition.
The bill is sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the Eau Claire and Superior areas, including Sens. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, and Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, and Reps. Warren Petryk, R-Eleva, and Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire.
To read the bill and other background materials, visit https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/related/proposals/sb727
Wednesday, Feb. 7th, 2018
Dust off your vintage formal wear, the Snow Ball is back!
UW-Stout has issued a news release covering the decision to hold their Snow Ball once again. Up until the mid-1970’s, the Snow Ball was a popular social event for students during UW-Stout’s Winter Carnival. Chancellor Bob Meyer, the 1978 Winter Carnival king, explains, “The Winter Carnival was basically a way to shake off the doldrums of winter and have fun.”
This festival had been a tradition for approximately 60 years, and offered activities such as winter sports competitions, an ice sculpture contest, and toboggan races. At Snow Ball, a king and queen were crowned, live music was played, and students donned their finest dresses and tuxedos. The university and the historical society chose to bring back the Snow Ball to “create new memories for a new generation,” says Frank Smoot, the executive director of Dunn County Historical Society.
The Russell J. Rassbach Heritage Museum in Menomonie will be hosting the Snow Ball at 7pm on Saturday, Feb. 10. Returning to the stage are the Thundermen, a rock band formed in Eau Claire decades ago. Party dress, especially vintage wear, is encouraged.
Tuesday, Feb. 6th, 2018
The Winter Olympics will be half a world away in South Korea, but that doesn’t mean Wisconsin won’t be represented when the torch is lit on February 9. Athletes form the Badger State will be competing on behalf of the red, white, and blue in at least six sports at the XXIII Winter Olympiad. Here they are:
1. NORDIC COMBINED
Eau Claire native Ben Loomis will fly – and race – for the gold in the Nordic Combined event as part of Team USA next month. Although he’s just 19, Loomis is a veteran of international competition: He’s taken part in the Junior World Championships four times, the World Championships last year, and the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Norway, where he won a silver medal. He earned his spot on this year’s Olympic team because of his strong showings in the U.S. Olympic trials in December and the World Cup in France this month. “I am very honored,” Loomis told the Leader-Telegram. “I’ve been watching the results of my teammates, and I knew I had a good chance. But it’s setting in slowly.” As you might guess, Nordic Combined encompasses two Nordic sports, ski jumping and cross country skiing. First competitors jump, then they take part in a ski race in which their starting time is based on the distance of their jump. Ben and his brother, Adam – who is also a member of Team USA – moved to Park City, Utah, a few years ago for better training opportunities, but they’re still making their hometown proud. According to Leader-Telegram sportswriter and local ski jumping historian Ron Buckli, Loomis is only the fifth Eau Claire skier to compete in the Olympics, and the first since 1984.
2. WOMEN’S HOCKEY
The U.S. women’s ice hockey team heading to PyeongChang, South Korea, is full of Badger State talent. In fact, four of them played for the University of Wisconsin: goaltender Alex Rigsby and forwards Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, and Brianna Decker. A fifth, forward Amanda Kessel, grew up in Madison but attended the University of Minnesota. Several of these women were on the silver medal-winning teams in 2014 and 2010, to they’re sure to be eyeing the gold in South Korea.
3. MEN’S HOCKEY
The men’s hockey squad has plenty of Wisconsin ties, too, starting at the top: Team USA is coached by Tony Granato, who also happens to coach the Badger men and is a Wisconsin alum himself. Assistant coach Chris Chelios and general manager Jim Johannson also skated for the Badgers, while team member Bobby Butler plays professionally for the Milwaukee Admirals.
The Upper Midwest is the center of the bullseye for curling in the United States, and that’s clear from this year’s Olympic roster: Every member of Team USA is from Wisconsin or Minnesota. The squad includes siblings Becca and Matt Hamilton (who will compete with the women’s and men’s teams, respectively, as well as in the mixed doubles tournament) and Nina Roth. All are from the Madison suburb of McFarland.
5. SPEED SKATING
Wisconsin has a long history of speed skating excellence (including Olympic legends such as Eric Heiden, Dan Jansen, and Bonnie Blair) and is home to the U.S. Olympic training site, the Pettit Center in West Allis. It’s no surprise there are two Wisconsinites on the 2018 edition of Team USA, namely two-time Olympian Mitchell Whitmore of Waukesha and Emery Lehman, a Marquette University junior and 2014 Olympian.
Even among all the speedy and slippery events of the Winter Olympics, the skeleton stands out for its daredevilry: Competitors ride face down and head-first on an icy track at speeds up to 90 mph. (Don’t try this at home, kids!) Matt Antoine – a native of Prairie du Chien – won a bronze medal in the sport at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, and he’s aiming for the medal stand again in PyeongChang.
Friday, Feb. 2nd, 2018
In a recent press release from UW-Stout’s Office of University Communications, they announced a collaborative project between UW-Stout, UW-Madison, and UW-Milwaukee jewelry students. Together, they will join professional jewelers and Radical Jewelry Makeover, an organization whose mission is to educate the public about recycling and cutting down on material waste. Instead of throwing away old or unwanted jewelry, Radical Jewelry Makeover is encouraging people to recycle it by making donations to their project team.
Donations of all jewelry types and materials can be made starting Feb. 20 at a number of drop-off sites. In Menomonie, drop off your donations in the Applied Arts Building at UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design Office. By donating your jewelry, you will get a coupon to buy repurposed jewelry items. Donation forms are available at drop-off sites or online.
Radical Jewelry Makeover has been established since 2007, but this will be the first project held in Wisconsin. Overall, the project will last through March, with the final proceeds of jewelry sales going to Ethical Metalsmiths – a nonprofit organization dedicated to using ethical materials for jewelry, and to fund student scholarships.
Kathleen Kennedy, co-director of Radical Jewelry Makeover, says, “It’s allowing the students to use the techniques they are learning in their regular classes and how to apply those to make old materials new.”
Thursday, Feb. 1st, 2018
If you’re looking for ways to get out of the house in the coming weeks, take a peek at some upcoming winter celebrations listed below. Most of these festivals are a reasonable distance from Eau Claire – perfect for a day trip with your friends or family.
1. The Ice Castles
Stillwater, Minnesota (1 hr 16 min from Eau Claire)
Jan. 6-Feb. 28 – The ice castles of downtown Stillwater are still open! Besides touring the ice castles, the princesses from Frozen will be there from noon to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Fire shows will be performed Fridays and Saturdays 7pm until 10pm, too. For more information about their hours of operation, tickets, parking, and events, go here.
2. Rochester WinterFest
Rochester, Minnesota (1 hr 59 min)
Jan. 18-Feb. 18 – Enjoy community-centered activities at this 16th annual festival in Rochester, Minnesota. Anticipate wintertime events filled with food, music, and entertainment. Among them will be the Candlelight Ski, Baconfest, sleigh rides, and the Cool School Plunge. View their website.
3. Saint Paul Winter Carnival
Saint Paul, Minnesota (1 hr 23 min)
Jan. 25-Feb. 10 – Consider taking your family to the Saint Paul Winter Carnival this year. There will be special attractions such as a Fire & Ice art show, parades, the Ice Palace Lighting Show, and much more. The carnival takes place near Rice Park and the Landmark Center, and the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. The majority of events are FREE and open to the public. Go here for more information.
4. Madison Winter Festival
Madison, Wisconsin (2 hr 47 min)
Feb. 3-4 – Join the Madison community in celebrating their Winter Festival in Elver Park. Look forward to snow carving, the Ice Age Challenge, and the Frosty 5k. Read all about it.
5. Winter Carnival
Luck, Wisconsin (1 hr 35 min)
Feb. 8-11 – You’re in Luck! Check out the Winter Carnival for traditional fair festivities, an ice fishing contest, a parade, and fireworks. View their event information.
6. Ham Lake Snowbowl
Ham Lake, Minnesota (1 hr 50 min)
Feb. 10 – The events of the Ham Lake Snowbowl include a fat tire bike race, a broomball tournament, and a snow sculpture contest. Follow clues to locate the Snowbowl Medallion and win some cash! Find out more.
7. Freeze Fest
Whitewater, Wisconsin (3 hr 16 min)
Feb. 10-11 – The Freeze Fest of Whitewater will benefit the Special Olympics by hosting the Polar Plunge and a chili cook-off. More details here.
8. Bar Stool Races
Drummond, Wisconsin (2 hr 12 min)
Feb. 17 – How do you race bar stools on snow? Attach them to skis! The participants decorate their own bar stools and will begin racing at 12pm. Fill up on food and drinks, then join in the raffle for a chance to win prizes. Check it out here.
9. Winter Fest
Chetek, Wisconsin (42 min)
Feb. 23-24 – Have fun at Winter Fest in Chetek. They’ll have activities for all ages including races and sledding, and other winter-themed events throughout Friday and Saturday. Learn more about Winter Fest here.
10. Grumpy Old Men Festival
Wabasha, Minnesota (1 hr 7 min)
Feb. 23-24 – Did you enjoy the 1993 comedy Grumpy Old Men? If so, you may want to check out the 25th annual Grumpy Old Men Festival where the movie was set. This festival will feature a showing of the film, an ice fishing contest, live music, a spaghetti dinner, and more. Go here for more details.
11. Neillsville Winter Carnival
Neillsville Wisconsin (59 min)
Feb. 23-25 – Head out to Neillsville for their Winter Carnival to see a Variety & Comedy Show, eat some pancakes, or volunteer for the Polar Plunge. To read more about this event, go here.
Tuesday, Jan. 30th, 2018
It’s an extremely huge year for Rock Fest, one of the Valley’s craziest music festivals that celebrates that most powerful of musical genres and the culture of fans that make it great – rock. This summer’s fest – which blasts from July 12 through 14 (it's an extra spooky Friday the 13th weekend to boot) – marks 25 years of awesomeness in Cadott.
And the lineup of rock excellence, which released today, is nothing to shake a flying-V guitar at. Heading up the silver anniversary is heavy-hitters Disturbed and Incubus (who are both making their Rock Fest debut) along with Godsmack, Halestorm, Rise Against, Black Label Society, and Seether, plus a ton of great bands – classic and modern alike. There’s some solo performances from some legendary classic rock acts like Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and Ace Frehley of KISS. And two of the Chippewa Valley’s own – picard and Filthy Sweet – will get to melt some faces on the Rock Fest stage as well.
More artists will be added later, but here’s the current lineup in full...
Black Label Society
Dead Girls Academy
The Missing Letters
Cowboys From Hell
Screaming For Silence
Hammer Down Hard
Lydia Can’t Breathe
Strate Jak It
Greater Than Three
Benjamin Raye Band
There’s always tons to do at the unique festival between the sideshows, tons of different vendors, dozens of tattoo artists with guns loaded, and the myriad activities all day each day.
Presale three-day general admission tickets for 2018 sold out in under two hours, and keep in mind, three-day ticket holders are invited to an exclusive Bonus Bash on Wednesday, July 11 that will feature some of the biggest names coming to the festival this year.
So rock fans, now is not the time to dawdle. Make sure to grab your tickets and buckle in because after 25 years of finessing their vibe, Rock Fest 2018 is ready to blow the doors off.