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Creating the ultimate concert experience

| Shari Lau

This weekend, thousands of music and arts fans will arrive in Eau Claire expecting big things from a Grammy Award-winning artist's festival. Putting together an experience of this size is no small task, which is why the festival enlisted a few talented students from UW-Eau Claire.

Two Blugolds are putting their creative skills to the test as interns for the first ever Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival — a two-day, multi-stage experience featuring live music and performance and visual art. 

"Right now we're all just working really hard to make Eaux Claires memorable and meaningful to all attendees," Cherie Minske said.  

Cherie, a senior marketing major from Northfield, Minnesota, and Leah Richardson, a 2015 music graduate from Mukwonago, have landed two prestigious internships with the innovative festival with a 2004 UW-Eau Claire alumnus and frontman of indie rock band Bon Iver, Justin Vernon. The two of them are working at Justin's Eau Claire home and studio, April Base. 

Cherie is working as the marketing intern responsible for the festival's social media accounts. She says that April Base's work environment has been laid back and conducive for creativity.

"When you're working on a project of this scale things can get overwhelming, but everyone I have met or worked with has been nothing but kind and helpful," she said. "My expectations of this internship have been exceeded in so many ways through my involvement with this festival and the people who are working to make it happen. Everything about it is coming from a very genuine place and it's awesome to be a part of."

Leah is working as the festival's arts administration intern. She developed a mobile application to allow festivalgoers to download performance schedules, view merchandise for sale, and even get notified of spontaneous performances. She says this opportunity has taught her the ins and outs of the music industry.

"There's always someone new to meet out here between artists and musicians, so it's been a great networking opportunity," she said. "I've learned how to interact with people in the music industry, which is important because that's where I want to build my career. I've also learned a lot about event planning and have even gotten to use a little of my creative skills." 

Cherie agreed that working with the festival has shown the importance of pursuing career opportunities that are meaningful. 

"When I graduate, I hope to find a job I am so crazy about I never want to stop learning more about it or challenging myself to bring something new to it," she said. "Above all, my involvement with the festival has given me direction, which is very valuable to a college student still trying to figure everything out." 

Every summer, hundreds of thousands of people pack the grounds at Country Fest, Country Jam and Rock Fest to see performances by artists such as Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Aerosmith and Five Finger Death Punch. With Eaux Claires, the landscape of music festivals in the Chippewa Valley will change as Grammy Award winner Justin Vernon brings his vision to Eau Claire. The multi-genre event will take place July 17-18 at Foster Farms in Eau Claire and is expected to draw 25,000 people each day. 

Cherie and Leah agree that the best part of the internship will be to see the tens of thousands of festivalgoers enjoying themselves and experiencing everything the festival has to offer.

"I think when it all comes together and we get to see people enjoying the art as much as we hoped they would, that'll be the reward."  

Photo caption: Blugold interns Leah Richardson (left) and Cherie Minske are hard at work on the grounds of the upcoming Eaux Claires Festival.