A fresh way to experience Eau Claire

Visit Eau Claire officially opened the new Experience Center at the Pablo at the Confluence Center


Photo by Gabbie Henn

The Eau Claire community gathered at Visit Eau Claire’s opening while enjoying local music, drinks and sharing some laughs.

Members of the Eau Claire community were pulled from Graham Avenue, enticed by a crowd, live music, the smell of food and talk of giveaways.

The Visit Eau Claire Experience Center, located in the Pablo Center at the Confluence, opened its doors — large, gaping garage doors, to be exact — for the first time at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26.

The first 100 visitors were given posters that said “Oh, It’s Happening” in orange and black. Guests were also given multicolored tickets, and each color earned guests who were over 21 a different sample of the showcased alcohol at the event.

Chip Magnet, Silver Spring Foods and Rump’s Butcher Shoppe featured their alcoholic beverages as well as a meat and cheese platter for guests to snack on as they explored the Experience Center.

“I like the idea of highlighting the companies with food and drinks,” said Jeni Path, a Silver Spring Marketing Advisor and visitor of the event. “It feels like it could do really well.”

Mack John, the Visit Eau Claire public relations director, said the center is a free space for people of all ages. The space is intended to be a fun hang-out spot as well as a functioning visitor center. It is also a dog-friendly area, she said.

“In regards to UW-Eau Claire, this is an invaluable space for students to come visit and explore Eau Claire,” John said. “It’s good for when parents are in town too.”

For Maria Berquist, a fourth-year ecology and environmental biology student at UW-Eau Claire, said the grand opening was the perfect event for her and her parents that weekend.

“I thought it was really cool,” Bequist said. “My parents wanted to see the Pablo Center, and I  didn’t know the event was that day. My parents loved everything, and they also got free drinks which was really cool.”

In addition to the food and drinks, the Ukulele Klub of Eau Claire and the Ben Shaw Band performed. The music accompanied conversations as guests checked out the screen-printing table set up by Animated Inks and the pop-up shop featuring Tangled Up in Hue.

“The pop-up shop is going to rotate monthly,” John said. “We will partner with local businesses and have workshops for visitors.”

While the Experience Center is still lacking furniture — which will be coming soon, John said — the center has come a long way from the original ideas and plans.

John said Kenzi Havlicek — the Director of Marketing for Visit Eau Claire — put a lot of work into designing the Experience Center. Havlicek traveled all around the country, visiting other visitor centers to find inspiration.

This exploration led to the 98-inch display TV, which Visit Eau Claire claims is one of 3 in the United States. The other two broke before Visit Eau Claire could install the one found in the Experience Center.

Spierings can be reached at [email protected]