What’s better than free things and food? UW Meets EC

Vendors and local businesses embraced the opportunity to connect with students

More stories from Ta’Leah Van Sistine


Photo by Gabbie Henn

UW-Eau Claire students enjoyed their downtown experience by trying out Eau Claire’s popular ice cream joint, Ramone’s Ice Cream Parlor.

On Friday, Sept. 7, a bus awaited students outside of Karlgaard Towers. After a short drive, these students were delivered to Phoenix Park, where they were then greeted by people from local businesses, looping underneath the park’s pavilion — and with that, the sixth annual UW Meets EC event commenced.

As students stood in line to visit local businesses, volunteers distributed free “Blugold Welcome” mugs, silver-painted human statues stationed themselves for photo opportunities and artists offered to do caricatures. Students received coupons and candy, and even encountered trivia wheels about Eau Claire, while they interacted with various booths.

Ann Sessions, the executive director of the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild, represented the theater with her booth. Sessions explained that she — and many of the other businesses at the event — has attended UW Meets EC every year since its beginning in 2013. Sessions said she appreciates how UW-Eau Claire openly encourages its students to engage with the surrounding community.

“The university makes it easy for students to connect with us, and so I feel like if you just told students to come, it would be hard, but they literally bring you here,” Sessions said. “I love that the university is proactive and literally buses kids down here.”

Sessions, on behalf of the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild, said she enjoys participating in UW Meets EC because it bridges the gap between UW-Eau Claire students and the city they live in.

We like it because we’re community theater, and we consider students a part of the community.” Sessions said. “Sometimes people kind of separate it out, like the university is something separate from the community, but we think it’s all one.”

After students wandered the chain of booths in Phoenix Park, they continued on a walking tour of downtown Eau Claire. The Micon Downtown Cinema provided free popcorn and a free ticket for a movie, a cappella groups performed on sidewalks and vendors offered free henna. These were only a few of the many opportunities that students experienced at the event.

On the corner outside the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, volunteers Dani Faas, a third-year social work student, and Henry Woloszyn, a fourth-year philosophy student, helped direct UW Meets EC participants. Faas and Woloszyn both said this was their first year of involvement in UW Meets EC, but both understood why students attend.

“I think it just helps you to get to know the area,” Faas said. “I thought, as a freshman coming in, the layout of the city was kind of confusing, and I think it just gives you a better understanding of where everything is and places that you might like to go to in your free time.”

After UW Meets EC concluded, Lindsey Drachenberg, a third-year psychology student, recounted how inviting Eau Claire’s downtown community was in previous years, encouraging her to attend the event again this year.

“I just feel like the downtown community was really welcoming my freshman year to us students, which just made it a place that made me want to go back,” Drachenberg said.

Drachenberg said UW Meets EC makes her look forward to the next opportunity she is able to go downtown.

“I definitely am excited to go back downtown after it’s not tonight,” Drachenberg said. “Just to look at new stores that have come since I was a freshman … (and) to go back down there, because it’s a super cool area, and I think UW Meets EC is a really great event, and I’m really glad the university has such great partners like that.”

Van Sistine can be reached at [email protected].