Things are moving fast in the Chippewa Valley. Crazy development projects, notable locals doing amazing things, creatives putting out stunning work, businesses reaching new levels of innovation — we really do live in a special place. But here’s our question for you: Were you paying attention? We do a Year In Review feature every year, and it's time to be tested by our editors, who have written questions designed to stump, befuddle, confuse, confound, and bewilder you. Are you a master of all things Western Wisconsin? Or did you let 2017 blow right by you?
QUIZ: Lauren Fisher, Tom Giffey, Mike Paulus, & Eric Christenson
Riverfront Park is visible evidence of the efforts the city of Chippewa Falls has made to preserve and revitalize its downtown. While a few elements have yet to materialize – including an amphitheater, which is expected to be built by next summer – the nine-acre park came into its own in 2017. Built on former industrial land along the Chippewa River, the park is meant for everything from quiet fishing to hosting gatherings for as many as 3,000 people. Riverfront Park was designed to be a gateway to downtown Chippewa Falls next to the Xcel Energy dam (with its iconic lighted NSP sign) at the intersection of Bridge and River streets.
In October, the the donor-funded Phoenix Park Bridge Light project gleamed to life for the first time. After months of fundraising for the $400,000 price tag and several more months of construction, 172 computer-controlled light fixtures shine from the structure for several hours in the morning and evening each day in a stunning (distracting?) display.
This year has continued a trend of a surge of restaurants in the Chippewa Valley. Eateries that now seem like they’ve always been here grew over just this last year. There’s a new ice cream shop (Ramone’s), fresh local Q (Red Coal BBQ and Cowboy Jack’s), more Mexican-inspired options (Roble Tacos + Tequila and Bomb Tacos), more places to get your favorite brew (Modicum Brewery and Soul Brewed Coffee) and many more.
In 2017, it became wholly apparent that yoga is a mainstay in the fabric of Chippewa Valley culture. We’ve got some incredible yoga spaces, daily practices, hot yoga, aerial silks ... there’s literally hundreds of different ways to stretch out, calm your mind, and get fit in the Valley. Heck, you can even do yoga on a paddleboard out on the lake if you want to. Yoga is growing faster than ever in the area with multiple studios starting up in the last few years.
TROUT & ABOUT
The pop-up restaurant Fontinalis, hosted by Bomb Tacos and organized by former New York, current Chippewa Valley chef Brendan McHale, was well-received throughout its run. With a menu of lake trout sandwiches and charred brats, many were successfully tempted to try everything on the selective menu. McHale plans to stay in the area and host more pop-ups throughout 2018.
Dais for Days
An October Eau Claire city council vote limited access to the dais to city council officials following controversy over whether a member’s infant child would be allowed to join his council member parent on the dais during official meetings. The story was picked up nationally, sparking debate and social media campaigns.
2017 saw an unprecedented number of articles from news organizations outside of the area – some of them on a national level – gushing about Eau Claire as a hot travel destination or a great city for which creative young should move. Some locals thought the attention was a bit much, while others figured it could be leveraged into existing community momentum.
A WEEK OF SLEEK EATS
The Chippewa Valley celebrated its inaugural Restaurant Week between Sept. 15 and 24, and more than 40 local eateries participated. In addition to unique menus and deals at those restaurants, Restaurant Week included a variety of food-themed special events including a farm tours, a trivia night, a panel discussion, a special book-inspired dinner, and the First Taste Culinary Crawl.
The rebuilt Carson Park Causeway, completed in November, features 12 ft of sidewalk on either side (for a grand total of 24 ft!), increased clearance for boat travel, and two fishing piers. The new-and-improved space and alleviates pedestrian congestion and allows people to fish without contributing to traffic hazards or erosion into the lake,. After crossing the causeway with it’s spacious trails, traffic (bikes, runners, walkers, and dog walkers all traveling at different speeds,) must condense itself into a single sidewalk heading up the hill into Carson Park.
The city of Altoona continues to grow thanks to the 129-acre River Prairie development, which straddles U.S. Highway 53 and Eau Claire River. In addition to the ginormous Woodman’s Food Market and Oakleaf Surgical Hospital, the development includes apartments, eateries, shops, a hotel, river access, public spaces, and much more.
WATER STREET SHAKEUP
The House of Rock and Water Street Deli both closed on the hoppin’ road that is Water Street in 2017. Water Street Deli closed to focus on their wholesale business, and the House of Rock will be replaced with a new scene called The Social Club. However, a number of new features did pop up on the scene.
PLAYGROUND GROSS OUT
On the morning of October 23, 2017, the Eau Claire Police Department was called to the Chippewa Valley Montessori Charter School to investigate a somewhat gruesome discovery. Early in the morning, the staff had found 18 small, dead animals placed around the school’s playground equipment. By mid-December, the perpetrator had been found and arrested. He admitted to the crime, saying it was a joke.
At the tail end of June 2017, the Confluence Art Center announced that Kevin Miller would serve as the $45 million facility’s executive director once it opened in 2018. Miller had been the director of the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts in Fond du Lac. However, in October, Miller resigned due to what appears to be false credentials on his resumé. An immediate search for a new director was launched. On August 25, Miller spoke at a concert held on Haymarket Landing’s rooftop patio and boisterously helped to promote a raffle contest to win a locally crafted instrument. The proceeds of the contest (which spanned last summer) raised funds for the Confluence Project.
TURN THE PAGE
Despite the constant evolution of social media and the thundering rise and fall of new apps and online services, Facebook seems to remain the Chippewa Valley’s favorite what to connect online – according to sheer numbers. Eau Claire boasts with a number of active social media communities.
This year saw big changes in two prominent downtown businesses. Eau Claire’s downtown game store and arcade, The District Company, changed its name to Eau Claire Games and Arcade, while Playmakers Bar became The District. “District” isn’t the only popular name for Eau Claire businesses, however. 2017 saw a recent surge in businesses that favor the syllable “ox”.
GROCERY MARKET GRAB
After a few years of explosive grocery growth, local supermarket chain Gordy’s Market stumbled into trouble throughout 2017. As the size of the operation became too challenging to manage, it was forced it close and sell multiple stores throughout northwestern Wiscosnin, including many Chippewa Valley locations. Gordy’s now operates six locations.
SHARE THE ROAD
On February 23, Lyft, a ride-sharing app, expanded its service area to 50 new cities, including Eau Claire. Using this app, a person can arrange a ride from one location to another using their phone. Anyone who meets Lyft’s requirements can use their personal vehicle to become a driver and make some extra cash.
In 2017, Eau Claire saw the publication of its first locally produced literary journal, Barstow & Grand. The journal features 27 poetry, fiction, and nonfiction submissions by 24 authors who all have a personal connection to the Chippewa Valley, although contributors don’t need to live in the valley currently.
Eau Claire’s local newspaper, the Leader-Telegram, was bought by media conglomerate Adams Publishing Group in June of 2017. Twelve staff members were laid off shortly thereafter as a cost-cutting measure. Adams Publishing Group owns nearly 100 publications, and its parent company also operates camping gear suppliers, wineries, vineyards, and a radio group.
In August, a privately built residence hall for UW-Eau Claire students opened on Water Street. The new dorm -- which features housing for 201 students on its top three floors and commercial space at street level – was built as a partnership between Blugold Real Estate and two prominent local developers. In fact, the building bears the last names of the pair.
Nice work, Smartypants! Mathematicians call this "100%." You must be some kind of Chippewa Valley genius, and it's totally OK to brag to your awesome friends! Buy yourself a cookie!
Not too shabby there, Ms. (or Mrs.) Quiz Master. You seem to know more than most about the Chippewa Valley. If you don't mind us saying it, we're very proud of your work here. Keep it up, Tiger!
Hey, there! We're liking what we're seeing here. You've definitely got some Chippewa Valley data tucked away in the ol' noggin. Why not take the quiz again and see just how high you can soar?
We'll be honest. You aced some tough questions, but we feel like you can do even better. We know you have it in you, and if you can dig deep and believe in yourself, well ... perhaps your ultimate dreams will come true.
Hey, good effort! You didn't get them all wrong, and we think that's really something. It's not nothing. Maybe you'd like to take the quiz again and go for a score that's really not nothing.
Are you the kind of person who just likes clicking on things for fun? You are? Awesome! Take the quiz again and click yourself silly!
(click the Facebook or Twitter buttons at the top of the page)