Local Current Blog

Justin Vernon-curated Eaux Claires Festival coming to western Wisconsin in July 2015

Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR

The Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival, a new outdoor event dreamed up by Justin Vernon and organized by the production team behind the independent-minded Boston Calling festival, passed through its final round of permit approvals tonight and is officially slated to take place in Eau Claire on July 17 and 18, 2015.

The Bon Iver frontman tapped Crashline Productions to help sort out the logistics for the two-day event, and together the organizers identified the site of the popular annual Country Jam festival, the Foster Farm, as the ideal setting for the new festival. The grounds are approximately 90 minutes from the Twin Cities, and offer a vast, remote, wooded setting for the gathering.

The lineup is being kept quiet for now, but the organizers anticipate up to 25,000 people will attend each day to see music on three stages. According to their permit application that was approved on Tuesday night by the Eau Claire County Board’s Planning and Development Committee, the setup will include two main outdoor stages and one 6,000-person capacity tented stage, plus on-site camping that begins Thursday, July 16, and extends through Sunday, July 19. Eaux Claires will take place the weekend prior to the popular Country Jam event.

Vernon has long been a champion for the Eau Claire area, staying anchored in his hometown and building his April Base studio in the nearby town of Fall Creek. The new festival is clearly being planned with the welfare of the city in mind; as Bob McCoy, president and CEO of the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce, recently told local television station WEAU, the event has the potential to bring “eight or nine million dollars” of tourism money into the area.

“It’s a very major economic impact,” McCoy said. “Looking at what Justin wants to do, and having somebody like that, you can look around for a long time trying to find somebody that will bring that kind of venue and that kind of magnitude into the community, and it falls in your lap, it’s really kind of cool and he’s a pretty awesome guy and he’s made some investments in the community,” says McCoy.

Vernon will act as curator for the festival’s lineup of music and art installations. Given how many high-profile artists he’s collaborated with in recent years, it’s anyone’s guess what kind of favors he might call in to make the initial festival a success. But judging by the permit application and preliminary details, one thing is already certain: Vernon and Crashline Productions intend to make this a long-running annual tradition for the city of Eau Claire.