CHIPPEWA FALLS — The Past Passed Here event will return next spring, but will move to a new location.
The 17th annual event will be held at Marshall Park, rather than at Allen Park, which flooded this spring, causing the festival to be cut short.
Jim Schuh, a former Chippewa Falls Main Street director and co-chairman of the festival, met with the Chippewa Falls Park Board recently to discuss using Marshall Park, located next to the Bernard Willi Municipal Pool.
“Marshall Park is on Duncan Creek, and it rarely floods,” Schuh said. “And it’s right across from our new (Chippewa County Historical Society) building. We’re pleased we can continue this event without worrying about flooding.”
Construction on that building, estimated to cost $3 million, hasn’t yet started. The organization has about $2.1 million raised between cash-on-hand and pledges. The society already owns the property.
Another positive of using Marshall Park is there is a permanent building on the site with bathrooms and a source of drinking water. There isn’t a bathroom building at Allen Park, so portable toilets have to be brought in for the event. Another benefit is a much larger parking lot at Marshall Park, which will be easier and safer for buses to navigate, he said.
The Past Passed Here is an annual event meant to show what life was like in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The event offers about 20 different stations where people can learn about the pioneering era and fur traders and survival in western Wisconsin. They can learn about games played at the time, see a speed-sawing activity, or watch a blacksmith and a weaver at work.
The event has always been held in Allen Park — where Duncan Creek pours into the Chippewa River — because that site was once the home of the Chippewa Lumber & Boom Company, with the largest saw mill under one roof in the world, with up to 175 saws that would be running at a time. However, the mill closed in 1910.
This is not the first time organizers have had to worry about flooding there.
“(Marshall Park) is as close as we can be, on Duncan Creek,” he said.
Schuh estimates it costs about $10,000 annually to operate the festival, and gate revenue and food sales usually allows them to break even. After this year’s event was cut short, Schuh expressed concern if the event would return in 2020 because of the lost revenue. However, their group has received a half-dozen significant donations.
“We lost some revenue opportunities, but we also were able to keep costs down,” he said. “We are back (financially) where we need to be.”
The Past Passed Here is always the second weekend of May.
“We’re locked into that date because we have re-enactments going on on all sides of us,” he explained. “And it’s as late as we can go into the school year.”
Schuh was fearful if the event continued to be at Allen Park and had future flooding issues, those re-enactors wouldn’t return.
About 9,400 fourth-grade students from across western Wisconsin have attended the festival over the 16 years, Schuh said.
Anyone who wishes to donate to the event can send it to: The Past Passed Here, Chippewa County Historical Society, 123 Allen St., Chippewa Falls, WI, 54729.