We can almost hear you shouting, “Well, at least it wasn’t another 2020!” We don’t disagree: If 2020 was a total dumpster fire, 2021 was at least an improvement. Maybe it was a single burning trash can, or perhaps a slightly charred but still usable wastebasket. Not the best, mind you, but not a total disaster.
We here are Volume One tend to look at the lighter, brighter side of life, so here you’ll find our not-so-serious (but not-entirely-unserious) review of interesting local happenings from the past 12 months. And rather than simply reciting a bunch of stuff that occurred in 2021, were continuing our tradition of providing our Year in Review in the form of a quiz. (Can you say “fun”? Say it. Please!)
Are you ready?
Take this quiz to prove your valley wisdom!
to tip or not to tip?
A handful of local restaurants were among the first in Wisconsin to either raise their menu prices or add a mandatory service fee in order to raise staff pay. These upcharges lessened the urge for customers to tip their hosts after eating.
they are the champions
The UW-Eau Claire volleyball team won its first-ever NCAA Division III Volleyball Championship in November with a 3-0 sweep of the Calvin University Knights in St. Louis. The Blugolds ended the season with an impressive 34-3 record and a 15-game winning streak. The championship is the latest feather in the cap for the UWEC athletic program.
Chippewa Falls juggernaut Leinenkugel’s Brewing Co. continues to supply the world with tasty brews, but 2022 will bring an exciting new addition to the company’s property.
Beloved Eau Clare pizza buffet Pizza Del Re went up for sale after decades of slinging tasty Italian pies. The owners are selling the business “as is,” hoping a new owner will purchase the restaurant and keep it largely the same.
she’s got talent
Boyceville native and YouTuber Madilyn Bailey got a shot at bigger stardom over the summer when she sang her way through several rounds of competition on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. She caught the attention of the talent show’s panel of celebrity judges during her audition with a unique tune.
To mask or not to mask? That’s been the contentious controversy for businesses and other indoor institutions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Eau Claire Area School District has been no exception. The dispute created some awkwardness in September when a school board meeting was abruptly canceled only moments after it had begun.
plans in the can
Things started to move fast in the redevelopment of the so-called Cannery District on the west side of the Chippewa River. In addition to formulating plans for a new park, creating a roundabout, and negotiating proposals for several other projects, city officials approved a major apartment development. The Cannery District Apartments will consist of two five-story buildings including a total of 266 units, some of them intended to be affordable to people earning 60% of the county median income. The development is possible in part because it is located in a TIF district.
you gotta see the Hy-Vee
Famed grocery store chain Hy-Vee came to Eau Claire in 2021, bringing in a fresh batch of products, food options, and other attractions.
UW-Eau Claire alumni John and Carolyn Sonnentag love their alma mater – really, really love it. In early December, the university announced that the couple would donate $70 million worth of cash and property to build the Sonnentag Event Center on Menomonie Street. The complex – which will include an arena to hold 5,000 people, a center for health and wellbeing, athletic department offices, a 100-yard field house, and a Mayo Clinic Health System sports medicine and imaging clinic – is slated to start construction in early 2022 for completion by 2024.
A popular pop-up fast food choice around the country this year was MrBeast burger, a line of specially named burgers, fries, and other food items. While the food itself was offered in Eau Claire through Red Robin...
keep on (food) truckin’
The food truck trend continued to swell in the Chippewa Valley, with new mobile food options seeming to pop up on every corner.
high bridge, low blows
The iconic “High Bridge” over the Chippewa River in Eau Claire was closed because of structural problems identified in June, and $2.5 million in repairs are expected to be finished by January. The pedestrian bridge was first closed because of damage to a railing, but a crack in a pier supporting the bridge, as well as a heave in the bridge deck, were soon noticed. The 900-foot iron lattice truss bridge was originally for the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha Railway.
get ready for this grocer
In October, the latest proposal for redeveloping downtown Eau Claire’s so-called “Block 7” was unveiled. Eau Claire developer Geoff Moeding’s plans for the site, which is now a parking lot, include a four-story, 109-unit apartment building with underground parking and two first-floor commercial units facing North Barstow, and a free-standing, 9,800-square-foot home for Menomonie Market Food Co-op (the new, post-merger name of Just Local Food Co-op). Eau Claire residents have long called out for a downtown grocery store, and in fact had one briefly a few years ago in the space that is now occupied by the U.S. Post Office.
robotic wait staff
While gorging on delicious sushi rolls and Lo Mein noodles at Eau Claire’s Shanghai Bistro, you might spot a rather unusual and extraordinary addition to their wait staff: a state-of-the-art robotic server. Specifically, it’s a Bear Robotics Servi, a high-capacity, multi-purpose, versatile robot that – as of Oct. 28 – serves lunch and dinner at Shanghai Bistro.
you go, girl!
Kennedy Swan, a Chippewa Falls teen who gained notoriety for her athletic accomplishments this past year, made headlines for her involvement in an exciting sport.
UW-Stout graphic design grad Emily Zugay gained viral stardom in 2021 thanks to TikTok videos of her intentionally cringeworthy redesigns of iconic company logos. After millions of views in which she gave deadpan explanations of her questionable design choices, big brands were clamoring for her to tackle their logos.
Lovers of antiques, oddities, and exotic taxidermy were saddened to learn that the Antique Emporium, 306 Main St., will close next year. Owner Hugh Passow, who has operated the business at that location since 1985, is selling the building to Pablo Group, which plans to begin a two-year renovation process in 2022 to rehab the structure for new tenants. The towering brick building at the corner of Main and South Barstow streets was built in 1899 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
the house on our turf
One of Volume One’s most popular stories of the year was about the so-called “Turf House” on Eau Clare’s Eastside Hill going onto the market. This mid-century gem was well known to residents because of its unique exterior, and online readers were surprised to see what it looked like on the inside – both before and after an extensive remodeling. Online, the article drew tens of thousands of views and hundreds of comments.
tune into this
Eau Claire’s own Justin Vernon grabbed attention in early 2021 when he took to Instagram Live to play a clip of a new song by frequent collaborator (and mega star) Taylor Swift. The tune ended up being part of How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?, a new album released later in the year by Big Red Machine, a side project of Vernon and Aaron Dessner. Both indie rockers had been part of Swift’s big 2020 albums, folklore and evermore. Taylor Swift is one of numerous Grammy winners Vernon has worked with.
The downtown Eau Claire skyline underwent evolution during 2021 as numerous major public and private building projects took shape.
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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.
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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!
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