Eric Christenson / Volume One

This New Year’s Eve, a new collaborative undertaking in the heart of Eau Claire will make the night magical in ways it hasn’t been in years – and it’s all to raise funds for the forthcoming Confluence Performing Arts Center. Through a multitude of symbiotic events and community partners, downtown will light up with music, entertainment, joy, and togetherness. The idea is to create an all-out party in Eau Claire that locals as well as people from beyond the geographic confines of the Chippewa Valley will want to come enjoy year after year.

“We haven’t had anything like this as a city on New Year’s Eve. There’s never been an anchor to keep people downtown on this major holiday in this city. People have typically vacated Eau Claire to find something cool to do,” said Jason Jon Anderson, assistant director of conferences and event production at UW-Eau Claire. “We know how throw a great party in this city, so why don’t we?”

The Lismore Hotel (333 Gibson St.) is anchoring the celebration with the first ever New Year’s Eve Gala sponsored by UW-Eau Claire, BMO Harris Bank, Blugold Radio, and The Lismore itself. The gala – which runs from 6pm to 1am that night – will have floor-to-ceiling entertainment at the hotel with tons of live music, dancing, cuisine, and champagne. Minneapolis cover band Belladiva will bring the hits while the Chippewa Valley Jazz Orchestra will join up with Anna Johnson for magnificent jazz vibes. On the lower level, Blugold Radio is hosting a show packed full of local music. A $125 ticket gets you access to all of this plus an exclusive dinner, while a $55 ticket gets you access to the entertainment and champagne.

And that’s just one piece of the puzzle.

Visit Eau Claire and Royal Credit Union are teaming up for a partnering celebration called Light Up Eau Claire, which will take the party outward into the downtown community with tons of events from 4pm to 1am. The sparkling centerpiece of Light Up Eau Claire will be a lantern parade at 11pm, the idea for which came from Eau Claire’s Australian sister city, Lismore, where people celebrate the winter solstice by crafting their own lanterns and having a community parade throughout the city. In similar fashion, Eau Claire’s lantern parade will take gala attendees and downtown partygoers from Barstow Street down to the Phoenix Park fishing pier where fireworks will be launched at midnight on the dot.

Photo by Creative Commons

Light Up Eau Claire brings a family-friendly element to New Year’s as well, with a Little Lantern Parade at 5pm, where kids and their families can march their own lanterns from the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire across the Grand Avenue footbridge and back. Then from 5 to 7pm, there will be a special WeBop Family Jazz Party, during which Tim Sullivan leads families with a fun, interactive, kid-friendly jazz jam session incorporating different exhibits at the museum.

Elsewhere downtown, local businesses such as The Plus, The Mousetrap, and The Lakely will light up with their own entertainment and live music offerings from 8-11pm. A $10 wristband for Light Up Eau Claire will get folks into any one of these shows all throughout downtown. Other elements of the downtown blow-out include a commissioned ice sculpture from local artist Jason Anhorn, a Dick Clark-style media stage on Visit Eau Claire’s Eau Claire-Stream trailer, and more family-friendly New Year’s shenanigans at the Rockin’ New Year’s Eve party at Hobbs Ice Arena. Meanwhile, both municipal parking ramps downtown will open up their rooftops for fireworks viewing parties.

Photo by Nick Meyer / Volume One

So … it’s a lot.

Some of the best stuff Eau Claire has to offer from loads of community partners will be out there on display for locals and visitors alike to enjoy on New Year’s Eve. “I think it speaks to Eau Claire being open and collaborative and creative in everything we do,” said Linda John, executive director of Visit Eau Claire.

Our city is going all in on New Year’s Eve this year in hopes of creating a signature event that will persist and grow for many years to come. Downtown has evolved so much in the last few years, and it’s time to celebrate. So raise a glass and toast to the memories of our past, the hard work being put in in the present, and our city’s future, which seems to get brighter and brighter by the year.

For more information on the New Year’s Eve Gala and Light Up Eau Claire, head to uwec.ly/nye2016 and LightUpEauClaire.com.