Interviews People

Questioning the Locals: Al Ross

free-wheelin' discussion with local folks

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

Al Ross at work in the Wisconsin Public Radio studio in Eau Claire.
Al Ross at work in the Wisconsin Public Radio studio in Eau Claire.

With his inquisitive, creative demeanor, Al Ross is a natural as host of Spectrum West, the long-running Wisconsin Public Radio program focused on music, arts, and humanities in the region. Ross, who lives in the shores of Lake Eau Claire near Augusta, describes himself as “an an experienced human specimen with just enough seasoning to make me generally acceptable in most circles.”

What place in town considers you a “regular”?

Just Local Food. I’m a proud member and believe it’s a treasure.

What’s the most positive local development since you moved here?

The rebuilding and revitalizing wave that started small and then took over Eau Claire’s downtown, altering most everything in its path.

What frustrates you about the Chippewa Valley?

Even though many of my peers have become so with age, i’m not conservative – and, 31 years ago, upon moving here, I found the area living up to the conservative reputation I’d heard about. Conventionality can stymie potential – and i enjoy watching potential emerge and boom.

What is one of the best cultural experiences you’ve ever had in the Valley?

Every time I attend (and I will again) a performance or an event featuring any of the countless musical aggregations, theatrical groups, or artistic consortia we have in our midst, it goes in the books as one of the best.

If you had an unlimited budget, what’s one piece of public art you would create locally?

I don’t know what it might be specifically, but i think it would be tall; something that stands above the skyline, as an instant reminder of who we are and what we value. I know! A soaring microphone stand with a cool RCA 77D ribbon mic resting on top, flashing beacon and all. OK, maybe not. I’ll leave the design up to someone else.

If COVID-19 suddenly vanished, where is the first local place you would go?

The Joynt for a Poynt(!)

What is your favorite piece of local trivia?

What the hell is a Blugold?

Death bed, one meal from a local restaurant, what would it be?

Too many great places to choose one, but, because I haven’t had it in years, i would order a big bowl of chicken dumpling soup, as it was served for many years at the Maple Manor Restaurant. I hear it’s still on the menu at what is now the Maple Lounge Café, but, since I’m on my death bed, I’d ask former proprietor Patti Stangel to feed it to me, so we could talk about all the good times and the good people who hung out at her place. Oh yeah, and extra saltines please.

If you would play kubb with any Chippewa Vallian, past or present, who would it be?

Jim Carter – packer legend, good guy, my age group …

Water street or downtown?


Ramone’s or Olson’s?

Oops, haven’t been to either one … don’t eat much ice cream ...

What book, TV show, or movie would you recommend to the members of the city council?

Book: How to Make The World a Better Place: A Guide to Doing Good by Jeffrey Hollender

If you could rename Eau Claire with a different French name, what would it be?

Ville de Renaissance.

Al’s Shoutouts:

The Carson Park Baseball Field. After a high school state baseball championship game disappointment there many years ago, I had to, upon moving here, rectify my feelings for the place – and I gradually came to love it dearly – I hope everyone realizes its aesthetic value.

Dean Kallenbach (Senior Regional Manager at WPR-Eau Claire). A man who radiates the joy of finding one’s true calling and, nearing retirement, realizing he’s positively affected many lives over many years.

Tuesday Night Blues in Owen Park. The season, the setting, the sounds, the energy, the human assortment, the aromas, and an appreciation for those who work to make it happen.