The scene was akin to the picturesque town square festivals of a bygone era.
In celebration of Independence Day, the annual Fun Fair was held in and around the Chippewa Valley Museum. Outside, the 20-piece Eau Claire Municipal Band provided the soundtrack for a crowd awash in red, white and blue. Carnival games, a cake walk, face painting, balloon animals and other offerings provided entertainment for the young, or just young at heart.
Agreeable weather and the lengthy list of activities brought hundreds to the Carson Park grounds. A new auto racing exhibit at the Chippewa Valley Museum was a big draw on Thursday, as was the fare at the facility’s old-time ice cream parlor. Admission was free to both the Chippewa Valley and Paul Bunyan Logging Camp museums.
“It’s fun to see the community come out and enjoy a day at the park,” said Carrie Ronnander, Chippewa Valley Museum director. “This is as busy — and active — as it’s been in years.”
A host of volunteers helped out the event, selling tickets, providing directions and answering questions about the region’s past.
“My favorite part is seeing people come in from all different countries,” said Ben Minerath, a volunteer for about 15 years, who describes his role at the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum as that of a greeter.
Visitors from afar are asked to place a pin in a map at the museum showing where they’re from. The map gets so crowded, it has to be cleared annually.
For Fred Theiste, the July 4 gala has come full circle. Now a tour guide at the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum, he fondly remembers spending the entire day at Carson Park on the Fourth of July in the past with his son.
“It’s a good chance for families to come down and learn a little bit about the history of the area,” he said. “(Logging) is a big part of the history of Eau Claire and a big part of the history of Wisconsin.”