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Equipment that gave Banbury Place its name on display

The equipment responsible for the name of Banbury Place can now be viewed outside one of its buildings.

A banbury and a mill roll were displayed Wednesday afternoon on Galloway Street. The roll and banbury serve as the first two of several artifacts — along with gears previously used by companies at Banbury Place — that will be placed outside the building over the next week-and-a-half. A banbury is a piece of equipment used to mix rubber. The displayed banbury weighs 19 tons, while the mill roll registers at seven tons.

Patti Cigan, Banbury Place vice president, called the items tributes to everyone currently working at Banbury Place and those who worked at the Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. factory from 1917-92.

“It’s wonderful to have a true banbury outside,” Cigan said.

A manager at American Phoenix, the largest of the many companies headquartered at Banbury Place, approached Jack Kaiser, Banbury Place president, a few months ago with the idea of donating the banbury for display. Kaiser accepted and hopes it can help explain the origin of the area’s namesake. He also said an informational sign detailing the banbury and building will likely be put in place soon.

Kaiser and his late stepfather Bill Cigan became new owners of the 1.9 million-square-foot complex about a month after Uniroyal ceased operations in June 1992, putting more than 1,000 employees out of work.

Kaiser wanted to have a memorable, lasting name for the area more than two decades ago. While walking through the area currently occupied by American Phoenix, he saw a sign for the banbury mixer lab and was intrigued by the interesting name.

“The lightbulb kind of went on,” Kaiser said. “...That was probably one of the toughest decisions we had, was to figure out what we’re going to call this place.”

The complex already has several gears displayed on Wisconsin and Galloway Streets, and Cigan and Kaiser wanted to add to the selection. Cigan said the gears along Galloway Street have become somewhat of a mecca for pictures, particularly around graduations and weddings. Galloway Street also serves as a gateway for Eau Claire, and they wanted to showcase the city for people driving down that road.

American Phoenix plant engineer John Radle has worked for the company during the entirety of its time at Banbury Place. He worked at Uniroyal for 25 years until the plant closed, starting a job at American Phoenix shortly after.

“When you get right down to it, that’s really all I know how to do, is work,” Radle said.

Radle remembered the uncertainty and sadness felt by many people during the last day at Uniroyal, where he watched the final pair of tires being made.

Kaiser didn’t know how business would go when it started 27 years ago. Challenging years have existed, but it seems to be in a good position overall and has made its imprint on the community. More than 27 years after the new ownership, Banbury Place has around 150 different businesses, 35 apartments and 300 indoor storage units.

“We struggled for several years, especially in the beginning,” Kaiser said. “...(But now) there’s a generation that grew up with Banbury.”

With the installation of several items, including the equipment that gave the area its name, Banbury Place can serve as more of an entry beacon to the community.

Chippewa Falls celebrates 150th anniversary with 'birthday bash' during Pure Water Days

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Pure Water Days always brings in large crowds to Chippewa Falls, but even bigger numbers are expected this year for the city’s 150th “birthday bash.”

Between the 43rd annual parade, live music and games for kids at Chippewa Riverfront park, along with Chris Kroeze playing at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds on Saturday, there are plenty of events going on this year.

Chippewa Falls Main Street executive director Teri Ouimette said she’s excited for this year’s events.

“We’ve got a ton of stuff going on, so it should be record-breaking (attendance), hopefully,” Ouimette said.

The city officially incorporated on March 25, 1869, and the date is included on the city’s logo and letterhead, noted Chippewa Falls city planner Brad Hentschel. The decision was made last year to mark the sesquicentennial as part of Pure Water Days, rather than on the exact date. Hentschel was the point person in city hall working on organizing the events.

“I’m super excited,” Hentschel said. “There have been a lot of hands involved to make this upcoming weekend flow and function well. We hope people who grew up here and moved away will come back for it.”

One of the big differences this year is live music at the fairgrounds, in addition to all the regular activities of Pure Water Days. Kroeze, the runner-up on NBC’s “The Voice” in December, was signed to perform months ago, but it was not publicly announced until after he had played at Country Jam.

“That may be the worst-kept secret in Chippewa, but that (signing) was huge,” Hentschel said. “This will be his first advertised show in Chippewa Falls.”

Jackie Boos, tourism director at the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, said organizers have extended their digital ads into the Duluth, Twin Cities and Chicago markets. There are many indications that crowds will be coming, she said.

“Our hotel partners are reporting 70% occupancies,” Boos said. “We’re really excited about that.”

Boos agreed that this is a chance to show off the city.

“It’s been eight months in the making, and we’re here,” Boos said. “It’s a weekend that shows the great community we live in.”

The parade always heads south on North Bridge Street and typically has 60 to 65 floats. Ouimette said she tries to keep the parade to about one hour in length.

“The theme this year is ‘Historic Chippewa Falls’ to go with the 150th bash,” she said. “People are keeping (their floats) pretty secretive, so I’m excited to see it. People get excited about the themes, so they can plan for it and do something special.”

This year’s parade will include the 132nd U.S. Army Band.

“They’ve performed all over the world,” Ouimette said.

None of the floats this year are politically-related, she added.

Chippewa Riverfront park, which officially opened this year on the north shore of the Chippewa River by downtown, will host the Riverfest activities after the parade, including live music, kids games, arts and crafts and several food trucks. There will be a kubb tournament and a rock climbing wall. The fireworks show will begin at 10:15 p.m., after live music wraps up.

Rob Kiefer, Chippewa Falls City Council president, encouraged people to make their way to the city this weekend.

“I think everyone in the Chippewa Valley should come and celebrate,” Kiefer said. “It’s going to be a good party with good music. I think we’ll have a good crowd.”

Other events and activities are going on throughout the city. For instance, at the Heyde Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. today and Friday will be “The Swampers: Today in the Valley.”

The Cook-Rutledge Mansion will be open for tours. The YMCA Pure Water Day races begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, which usually draws hundreds of participants between the four races.