Searching for the pot of gold

St. Patrick’s Day parade to raise money for downtown radio station


STRUTTING WITH CHARM: WHYS radio’s St. Patrick’s day parade hosted by Acoustic Cafe, draws enthusiasts of Irish culture of all ages. Submitted

Story by Ellis Williams, Staff Writer

Guinness beer, kilts and loud music — it’s that time of year again. Whether you are Irish or not, celebrations are in order.

This Sunday, the Acoustic Cafe is hosting WHYS 96.3 FM 8th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Fundraiser. The afternoon-long celebration includes a parade, live Irish music, traditional Irish food and drink and a silent auction.

Ben Johnson, a member of the board of directors at WHYS radio, said people come to the event rain or shine and they get to be outside while marching in a parade before going into the cafe to enjoy the Irish atmosphere.

“In our parade we have musicians, accordion players, drummers and people in kilts,” Johnson said. “We have babies in strollers, college students to the elderly who walk.”

The parade starts at noon in the radio station parking lot at 405 S. Farewell St. and ends at the Acoustic Cafe on 505 S. Barstow St. The two-and-a-half block march lasts about 20 minutes, hence the title Shortest Sidewalk Parade.

The cafe played host to the event for all eight years, and the downtown business is honored to once again support WHYS radio, a manager at the Acoustic Cafe, Cathy Tepaske said.

“WHYS is right down the road from us so us hosting seems like a natural fit,” she said. “It is our privilege and pleasure to be able to host such an event.”

Once the marchers are inside the cafe they are surrounded by traditional Irish culture. Johnson said the booths are turned around to form a u-shape in order to create a pub like atmosphere. The menu includes unique Irish desserts and Guinness is available to anyone over 21.

Apart from the packed dance floors and dining rooms, there is another element to the celebration, which the people at WHYS are equally excited about. Lori Chilefone is the artistic director on the board at WHYS and said she has gathered about 28 works of art for the silent auction.

Chilefone said the silent auction will feature regional artwork, which includes a few original paintings, several photographs, high quality prints made from originals and some pottery.

WHYS is a non-profit, community-funded station ran by volunteers. Johnson said the Shortest Sidewalk Parade was created because the station needed to come up with an event that would be fun and also be a fundraiser.

Forty percent of the money generated from each piece of art sold will benefit the artist, while 60 percent will go to WHYS radio. In addition to the regional artwork, Johnson said WHYS counts on item donations from other downtown businesses to be put into the silent auction.

“All of this is put on by local volunteers, no one makes a dime,” Johnson said. “All the money earned at the parade goes right back into the station.”

The money raised at the event accounts for 25 percent of the radio’s operating budget, Johnson said.

WHYS radio has been a part of the Eau Claire community for 10 years and they offer a variety of music ranging from children’s music to Latin, punk and reggae. They also offer comedy shows and news programs.

Chilefone said working to locate art for the silent auction is her way  of giving back to WHYS radio.  She said community radio is a valuable platform for people who live here, and she would love to see the station continue for another 10 or more years.

“I value community radio and I support WHYS radio because I care about it,” Chilefone said.

Acoustic Cafe employees have noticed WHYS has a very loyal listening group. Tepaske said the celebration is the perfect combination because there aren’t a lot of spring- time celebrations. St. Patrick’s day is an opportunity to get out and celebrate.

“It is a fun, family-friendly afternoon,” Tepaske said. “There is art all around to be shown, the Guinness is flowing and there is all sorts of Irish music.”