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Former Packer Buchanon discusses his time with team, love of the game

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Willie Buchanon lives in his hometown of San Diego, but he loves coming back to Wisconsin to represent the Green Bay Packers.

Buchanon, 68, was a cornerback with the Packers from 1972 until 1978, then played four more years with the San Diego Chargers. The 1972 league rookie of the year and two-time Pro Bowler spoke at the Lambeau Field Live exhibit Thursday at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair and posed for pictures with the crowd gathered for his speech.

“This is great,” Buchanon said of the crowd on hand. “There are great fans here, and we want to thank them for continuing to support the Packers.”

The Lambeau Field Live exhibit, which debuted at the fair last year, features an artificial turf field laid in the center of the grounds and trailers filled with Packers’ exhibits and memorabilia that surrounds the mini-football field. The exhibit, which was created to celebrate the football team’s 100-year anniversary, is not expected to return in future years.

Buchanon said he feels honored he was able to play in the league for more than a decade.

“It was fascinating; it was fun,” he said. “I told myself when it stopped being fun, I wouldn’t play anymore.”

Even as a retired player, he stays involved with the team, attending an annual Packers alumni weekend.

“I talk to three, four guys (former teammates) at least once a week,” he said.

Buchanon was the seventh overall pick in the first round of the draft. He noted that the seventh pick this year got a $15 million signing bonus. When asked how much he received to sign, he quickly replied, “I ain’t telling you,” which drew laughs from the crowd.

One fan asked him what was the coldest game that he ever played in. While Buchanon said it seemed like all the Lambeau Field games were cold, he said the worst was actually a late-season game in Cincinnati when he was with the Chargers at the end of his career.

Buchanon was asked about his injuries in his playing career.

“I had both knees done about five years ago, but I broke my leg twice,” Buchanon replied. “They actually set my leg on the field in 1974.”

Buchanon spoke warmly of his friendship with Bart Starr, who died earlier this year.

“He loved his players,” he said. “He was genuine. He told you what you needed to hear on the field.”

One fan asked him which quarterback he prefers, Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers.

“How do you ask that question? They are both great quarterbacks, spun from the same system,” he replied.

Since he retired, Buchanon has stayed involved in the league, including working on an annual fundraiser during the Super Bowl to raise money to end hunger. He became a Realtor but also a pastor.

“Being an ordained minister, I understand what life is all about,” he said. “I understand the Word, and I had to go out and teach the Word.”

Lambeau Field Live continues today with special guest John Brockington, a fullback who played for the Packers from 1971 until 1977. Brockington will be at the exhibit every day this weekend.

New foods

Fairgoers will have a few new food options to try this year.

Steve Demars of Rice Lake debuted his Waffle Bomb food truck at the fair this year. He’s stationed in front of the grandstand bleachers.

A Waffle Bomb features several jumbo strawberries that are dipped in waffle batter, deep fried, then covered in chocolate sauce and powdered sugar. Demars said he opened his booth last year and brought it to fairs from Florida to New York. He loves the reaction when people give it a try.

“They are surprised, saying it is very tasty,” Demars said. “It get a lot of ‘oh my god that is fantastic’ comments.”

Demars was pleased with the customer traffic over the first two days of the fair.

“When you have a new, unique food item, it’s hard to get a following,” he said.

Another new food this year is at Richie’s Cheese Curd Tacos truck. Charles Smith of St. Cloud, Minn., said his tacos feature deep-fried cheeses, plus a variety of meats, ranging from bratwurst to chicken.

Smith said he sees confused faces as they walk up to his truck.

“They don’t understand it at first, then they get one, and they understand,” Smith said. “It’s a blast, after they bite into one. Then they come back and say how much they liked it.”

Trump abandons bid to include citizenship question on census

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump abandoned his controversial bid to inject a citizenship question into next year’s census Thursday, instead directing federal agencies to try to compile the information using existing databases.

He insisted he was “not backing down,” declaring in a Rose Garden announcement that the goal was simple and reasonable: “a clear breakdown of the number of citizens and non-citizens that make up the United States population.”

But the decision was clearly a reversal, after the Supreme Court blocked his effort by disputing his administration’s rationale for demanding that census respondents declare whether or not they were citizens. Trump had said last week that he was “very seriously” considering an executive order to try to force the question. But the government has already begun the lengthy and expensive process of printing the census questionnaire without it, and such a move would surely have drawn an immediate legal challenge.

Instead, Trump said Thursday that he would be signing an executive order directing every federal department and agency to provide the Commerce Department with all records pertaining to the number of citizens and noncitizens in the country.

Trump’s efforts to add the question on the decennial census had drawn fury and backlash from critics who complained that it was political, meant to discourage participation, not only by people living in the country illegally but also by citizens who fear that participating would expose noncitizen family members to repercussions.

Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, and the lawyer who argued the Supreme Court case, celebrated Thursday’s announcement by the president, saying: “Trump’s attempt to weaponize the census ends not with a bang but a whimper.”

Trump said his order would apply to every agency, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. The Census Bureau already has access to Social Security, food stamp and federal prison records, all of which contain citizenship information.

Trump, citing Census Bureau projections, predicted that using previously available records, the administration could determine the citizenship of 90 percent of the population “or more.”

“Ultimately this will allow us to have a more complete count of citizens than through asking the single question alone,” he contended.

But it is still unclear what Trump intends to do with the citizenship information. Federal law prohibits the use of census information to identify individuals, though that restriction has been breached in the past.

At one point, Trump suggested it could help states that “may want to draw state and local legislative districts based upon the voter-eligible population.” That would mark a change from how districts are drawn currently, based on the entire population, and could increase Republican political power.

Civil rights groups said the president’s efforts had already sown fear and discord in vulnerable communities, making the task of an accurate count even harder.

“The damage has already been done,” said Lizette Escobedo of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

The Census Bureau had stressed repeatedly that it could produce better citizenship data without adding the question.

In fact, the bureau had recommended combining information from the annual American Community Survey with records held by other federal agencies that already include citizenship records.

“This would result in higher quality data produced at lower cost,” census Bureau Deputy Director Ron Jarmin had written in a December 2017 email to a Justice Department official.

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, ultimately rejected that approach and ordered the citizenship question be added to the census.

The American Community Survey, which polls 3.5 million U.S. households every year, already includes questions about respondents’ citizenship.

“It’s a retreat back to what he should have done from the beginning,” said Kenneth Prewitt, a former Census Bureau director.

Trump’s administration had faced numerous roadblocks to adding the question, beginning with the ruling by the Supreme Court temporarily barring its inclusion on the grounds that the government’s justification was insufficient. Two federal judges also rejected the Justice Department’s plan to replace the legal team fighting for inclusion.

But Trump insisted his administration was pushing forward anyway, publicly contradicting government lawyers and his commerce secretary, who had previously conceded the case was closed, as well as the Census Bureau, which had started the process of printing the 2020 questionnaire without the controversial query after the Supreme Court decision.

As he has many times before, Trump exploded the situation with a tweet, calling reports that the fight was over “FAKE!”

A week of speculation about the administration’s plans and renewed court battles ensued as Trump threw out ideas, including suggesting last week that officials might be able to add an addendum to the questionnaire with the question after it was printed. And he toyed with the idea of halting the constitutionally mandated survey entirely while the court battle played out.

Attorney General William Barr, however, said that the government had no interest in delaying the count and that, while he was confident the census question would have eventually survived legal review, the process would have taken too long to work its way through the courts.

Trump had offered multiple explanations for why he believed the question was necessary to include in the once-a-decade population count that determines the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives for the next 10 years and the distribution of some $675 billion in federal spending.

“You need it for Congress, for districting. You need it for appropriations. Where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons,” he told reporters last week, despite the fact that congressional districts are based on total population, regardless of residents’ national origin or immigration status.

If immigrants are undercounted, Democrats fear that would pull money and political power away from Democratic-led cities where immigrants tend to cluster, and shift it to whiter, rural areas where Republicans do well.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday accused Trump of pushing the question “to intimidate minorities, particularly Latinos, from answering the census so that it undercounts those communities and Republicans can redraw congressional districts to their advantage.”

He later called Trump’s move a “retreat” that “was long overdue and is a significant victory for democracy and fair representation.”

U.S. National Kubb Championship returns to Eau Claire this weekend

Wood will be flying again this weekend when the U.S. National Kubb Championship returns to Eau Claire.

The 2019 tournament, held at the Eau Claire Soccer Park, will feature 128 teams with about 460 players from 18 states, Washington, D.C., and Sweden.

All of the competitors are coming to Eau Claire to play kubb, a Nordic yard game that involves throwing wooden batons in an attempt to knock down blocks of wood. Kubb is nicknamed “Viking chess” because of the strategy involved and its purported origin with the Vikings in Sweden.

The 13th annual Eau Claire event, which has grown steadily from 15 teams and 35 participants in the first edition, is the largest kubb tournament outside of Europe.

A new addition to this year’s festivities will be the World 1 v. 1 Championship beginning at 2 p.m. today at the Soccer Park. That event, hosted by Chaska Kubb from Minnesota, will include 64 players competing individually for the world title.

The U.S. National Kubb Championship, which requires all teams to have at least three players, will get underway at 9 a.m. Saturday, with the top 16 teams vying for the title beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday.

While the tournament has steadily expanded its geographic draw, tournament director Eric Anderson of Eau Claire said he takes great pride in the game’s strong connection to the city — something he said attracts many participants.

“As more and more people around the country start playing kubb and falling in love with it, they hear about the tournament and think, ‘We’ve got to play in that,’ “ Anderson said. “It’s kind of the mecca, if you will.”

Roughly half the 128 teams have at least one player from Eau Claire, so the community’s bond with the game is on full display at the U.S. National Kubb Championship.

“Those people who travel here see it before, during and after their time in Eau Claire,” Anderson said. “They think, ‘That community really is the Kubb Capital of North America’ “ — a moniker officially bestowed upon Eau Claire by its City Council in 2011.

The tourism marketing agency Visit Eau Claire has been promoting the city’s kubb culture on social media and through regional events with the help of a $39,900 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

Visit Eau Claire estimates the national championship will generate an estimated $156,000 of visitor spending today through Sunday.

“The influx of visitor spending is great for this weekend, but kubb has also helped put a brand stamp on the community,” said Linda John, executive director of Visit Eau Claire. “It really fits in well with Eau Claire’s image as a community with a playful and independent spirit where people don’t mind being a little different.”

The growth of kubb in league, tournament, school and recreational play in the Chippewa Valley has generated significant interest from visitors and journalists, John said.

Anderson, who brought kubb (pronounced koob) to Eau Claire in 2007 after being introduced to it in Sweden, seeks to continue to grow the game by providing outreach at schools and community events.

The tournament attracts and welcomes participants with a variety of skill levels, ranging from beginners to competitors who take it extremely seriously and compete year-round.

“That’s always been our vision of the U.S. Championship and something that to me makes the event really beautiful and family friendly and welcoming,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re one of the least experienced teams or one of the best teams in the world. We’re all here together to have fun and meet people. Kubb really does bring people together.”

One of his favorite stories, Anderson said, involves a team from Arkansas that traveled to Eau Claire last year for the tournament and even made a video about the experience. They didn’t win a game the entire tournament but are returning this year with a second team.

“They had that much fun,” he said. “It’s great.”

Still, Anderson said an increasing number of teams are training and treating kubb as a competitive sport.

Scott Forster, an Eau Claire player who was part of the last two national championship teams, agreed, saying, “It’s getting tougher every year. Teams are getting stronger and more strategic.”

Forster, who has competed in all but one national tournament since 2010, will rejoin teammates Gregg Jochimsen of Eau Claire and Grant Scott of Des Moines, Iowa, in an attempt to defend their 2018 title.

It won’t be easy, as this will be the first year that all of the top 16 teams from 2018 are returning.

The tournament, a fundraiser for Girls on the Run of the Chippewa Valley and We Help War Victims, typically attracts 400 to 500 spectators per day. Admission is free.

Anderson said he would advise spectators to attend at 9 a.m. or 1 p.m. Saturday when all of the teams are playing at the same time or around noon Sunday for the semifinals.

“Every team that makes it to Sunday is just world class,” he said. “It’s a chance to watch literally some of the best kubb players in the world.”