Questioning the Locals: Mark Blaskey

free-wheelin' discussions with local folks

V1 Staff, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

ALTOONA AWESOMENESS. Brendan Pratt has lived in Altoona for the past 16 years, serving as its mayor for the last seven.
MAKE YOUR MARK. Mark Blaskey is an engineer-turned-artist that has lived in Altoona for 43 years.

Give him a hand! Mark Blaskey moved to the area 43 years ago after earning a Civil Engineering degree from UW-Madison. After retiring from engineering, Mark became Executive Director of the Chippewa Valley Symphony and then Eau Claire Jazz, Inc. He also started sculpting and just finished out an exhibit at the Pablo Center that showcased the hands of local creatives and their tools in “A Show of Hands: Notable Masters and Tools of Their Trade”.

[eau claire] has everything I wanted: great music, bicycling, forests, Nordic skiing, canoeing, active people—and entrepreneurial opportunities.

mark blaskey


What’s your passion?

Arts, especially music. Many times I’ve felt the hair rise up on my arms and tears forming in the corners of my eyes when I see a great performance.

What’s your absolute favorite piece that you’ve created?

I’ve created well over a thousand pieces, and twenty or so are favorites, but I have to say that my memorial at Holy Ghost Church in Chippewa Falls is the most meaningful because a number of people told me how they appreciated it and felt healing from it.

What place in town considers you a “regular”?

Fairfax Pool in the summer, Tower Ridge during ski season.

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

Eau Claire Jazz Festival with guest artists New York Voices, Diane Schuur, Neena Freelon, Bobby Sanabria, and Geoffrey Keezer.

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

I wish my deathbed would be on our deck overlooking Lake Altoona and the meal would be one of Emily’s great dishes. Finish the meal and kaploosh! into the water below.

What is your favorite piece of local trivia?

There was an oval horse-racing track where the big CVTC parking lot on Clairemont Ave is now.

Describe your last encounter with the police department.

Going canoeing, I was caught speeding in Altoona at 6 a.m. on a June Saturday morning 28 years ago.

South side or North side?

I lived next to Saint Bede’s in the 1980s’, so the south side, which has easy access to great road bicycling.

Mark’s Shoutouts

Tower Ridge during ‘Kicking Kids’. “On Monday nights in January and February, over 150 kids having fun being in the woods and learning to ski.”

Coon Fork Park. “It’s great any time of the year: camping, mountain biking, skiing, swimming, canoeing, relaxing.”

The Nostalgic Bean. “They have Superb French pastries.”