What started as a fundraiser for a downtown arts center is now in its third year as the city’s official New Year’s Eve celebration — but this will be the first time revelers will gather outside proof of the event’s success.
Visit Eau Claire started Light Up Eau Claire to raise money for what is now Pablo Center at the Confluence, said Mack John, the tourism agency’s public relations manager. Being a part of the event all three years and watching it come full circle has been extremely rewarding, she said.
“Watching it grow in that respect is really exciting, and I think that’s a perfect reason to come down and celebrate,” John said. “Celebrating the fact Pablo Center is finally here, and it’s really fitting with the name (Light Up Eau Claire) because the building is lit up every night and really adds to the mission of our city.”
Light Up Eau Claire returns downtown with events beginning at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31. Perhaps the biggest change to this year’s festivities is the timing of the annual lantern parade — where anyone is welcome to bring their own lanterns, or purchase one for $5, and walk in the parade alongside “Dragons of the North,” the commissioned larger-than-life lantern by local artist Pam Rindo.
Instead of the parade beginning at 11 p.m. as it has in previous years, John said it will now begin at 6 p.m. on the corner of Graham Avenue and Gibson Street — at the Pablo Center, where the parade also will end. Lineup for the parade will start at 5:30 p.m.
“We decided to make it earlier this year in the hopes of more people coming out, before it gets too cold later on in the night and also before the music and everything gets started,” she said. “Instead of ending the night, it’s more of a way to kick things off.”
And while they will continue to hold outdoor activities — such as an ice sculpture by artist Jason Anhorn, Visit Eau Claire’s Eau Claire Stream portable stage and fire pits in the parking lot on Barstow Street across from the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire — John said the event in the past has coincided with some frigid temperatures, and organizers wanted to “enhance all of the indoor things we have going on while still keeping the outdoor winter vibe.”
According to an infographic provided by Visit Eau Claire, last year’s temperature at midnight on New Year’s Eve was -13 degrees.
Other events include wristband access to 10 live music venues, with most shows beginning at 8 p.m., though the Fire House will have music starting at 6:30 p.m. and the children’s museum at 4 p.m. John said they have a mix of all-ages venues as well as 21-plus venues, so there should be something for everybody. Wristbands are $15 for 21-and-older and $10 for all-ages.
Those who are looking for a fancier celebration can attend BMO Harris Bank’s gala at the Lismore, 333 Gibson St. The formal event will include dinner and live entertainment by Belladiva and the Chippewa Valley Jazz Orchestra. Those tickets are $125, or for $55 patrons can purchase the “Light Up Late Night” gala ticket, which will include the after-dinner appetizers and dancing to live music starting at 9 p.m. at the Lismore.
Both tickets also include access to the 10 live music venues, one of which will be Pablo Center’s Jamf Theatre, where sloslylove will be performing from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Each of the venues will be stocked with live local musicians, which John said is an added way to show off the city’s talents year round.
“Having all of the music venues showing off some of the local artists, not only on New Year’s but a lot of these venues that are participating have music going on multiple nights a week,” John said. “It’s an opportunity to show what winter in Eau Claire is like to people who might not think of coming (here) in the winter.”
For local musicians who are performing, it’s also an opportunity to share their music with an audience that might not regularly come out to a show, said local musician Jerrika Christianson, who creates music under the name Jerrika Mighelle. She’s performed in various venues at all of the Light Up Eau Claire celebrations.
“This event gives all of these artists an opportunity to show their art in front of the community, and also they pay us fairly so that is supporting the musician in that way as well,” Christianson said. “I love it. It’s a give-give situation.”
She’s also had the opportunity to hang out with and meet local musicians through the event, and said that’s one of her favorite parts.
This year, Christianson will be performing from 8 to 9:30 p.m. at ECDC, though she said Wednesday she might also be adding a second set at a different venue. An emotional songwriter, Christianson said she plans to play a mix of original, heartfelt songs as well as some more upbeat tunes and a few covers.
“I like human emotion and I have no problem doing my best to bring the audience with me,” she said. “But we’ll always end on a positive note.”
New this year, John said they will have QR codes outside of the venues that people with smartphones can scan to quickly purchase wristbands on site.
The goal each year is to make the event even better, and in that she thinks they’ve succeeded.
Last year’s event saw 1,556 attendees, John said, and raised $42,000 for the arts center. She said this year’s proceeds will go toward Pablo Center’s operation costs.
While people typically think of Eau Claire in the summertime for its music festivals and floating down the river, she thinks Light Up Eau Claire has become a destination winter event for people from outside of the area as well as the city’s residents.
“What’s so fun about Light Up Eau Claire is that it shows off Eau Claire’s year-round culture,” John said, “and the vibe that exists here outside of the summer.”
LIGHT UP EAU CLAIRE MUSIC VENUES
4 to 8 p.m. at Children’s Museum of Eau Claire, 220 S. Barstow St.
8 to 11 p.m. at ECDC, 205 S. Barstow St.
8 p.m. to midnight at Dive (21+), 333 Gibson St.
8 to 11 p.m. at Micon Downtown Cinema, 315 S. Barstow St.
9 p.m. to midnight at The Plus, 208 S. Barstow St.
8:30 to 11:30 p.m. at Stones Throw (21+), 304 Eau Claire St.
The Metro (21+), 201 E. Lake St. Times still being determined.
8 p.m. to midnight at Pablo Center at the Confluence’s Jamf Theatre, 128 Graham Ave.
6:30 p.m. to midnight at the Fire House (21+), 202 Gibson St.
The District (21+), 101 Graham Ave. Times still being determined.
NEW YEAR'S EVE EVENTS
Annual CMEC Noon Year’s Eve celebration, 10 a.m. to noon, Children’s Museum of Eau Claire, 220 S. Barstow St. $7. 715-832-5437.
Lantern-making workshop, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Pablo Center at the Confluence, 128 Graham Ave. Free. pablocenter.org.
Light Up Eau Claire: Little Lantern Parade, 4:30 p.m., Children’s Museum of Eau Claire, 220 S. Barstow St. Free. 715-832-5437.
New Year’s Eve four-course meal, 5 p.m., The Lakely, 516 Galoway St. $60, 21 and older. 715-839-0601.
Rock’N New Year’s Family Skate, 6 to 9 p.m., Hobbs Ice Center, 915 Menomonie St. $4. 715-839-5032.
Xcel Energy’s Lismore Lantern Parade, 6 p.m., parade starts at intersection of Graham Avenue and Gibson Street. visiteauclaire.com.
Third annual New Year’s Eve Gala, starts at 6 p.m., The Lismore, 333 Gibson St. $125 for full event, $55 for Light Up Late Night (without the dinner). visiteauclaire.com/lightupeauclaire.
Light Up Eau Claire Live Music, starts at 6 p.m., various venues downtown. Wristband is $10. visiteauclaire.com/lightupeauclaire.
Prelude to an Eve: Troppo Big Band Jazz Orchestra, 7:30 p.m., Heyde Center for the Arts, 3 S. High St., Chippewa Falls. $18 adults, $15 seniors and $9 youth. 715-726-9000.
Comedy hypnotist Dan Lornitis, 7:30 p.m., River Prairie Center, 1445 Front Porch Place, Altoona. $20, 21 and older. riverprairiecenter.com.
All-ages New Years Eve with Orenda Fugue, 9 p.m., The Plus, 208 S. Barstow St. 715-832-8844.
New Year’s Eve Lock-in, 11 p.m., Action City, 2402 Lorch Ave. $25 in advance, $30 at door. 715-852-6000.