We wanted to take advantage of the Mississippi River…that is what we are known for…overlooking Riverside Park….the view onto itself sells the whole building.

Art Fahey

Director, La Crosse Center

We chatted with Art Fahey, longtime Director of the La Crosse Center and Food & Beverage Supervisor Jay Breier about the new La Crosse Winter Roots Festival happening February 12 in the brand new Riverside Ballroom. We find out what they are excited for with the newly remodeled space. They touch on public art, new state of the art equipment, and the public’s response to the new additions.

La Crosse Local is proud sponsor of the La Crosse Winter Roots Festival.
Winter Roots Festival


Amy Gabay 00:01
La Crosse Local is proud to be a sponsor of the La Crosse Winter Roots Festival brought to you by Ultra Federal Credit Union. We invite you to celebrate music, cuisine, artists, makers, brewers and distillers in the new La Crosse Center Riverside ballroom. Musical entertainment includes Dan Sebranek, Three Grimm, Tugg, the Remainders, Greg Hall and the Wrecking Ball and the Tripping Billies, the nation’s most renowned Dave Matthews tribute band. La Crosse Winter Roots Festival is presented by the La Crosse Center, La Crosse Local, and with special thanks to the Remainders. Find out more information and how to get tickets at lacrosselocal.com. We chatted with Art Fakie, longtime Director of the La Crosse Center, and Food and Beverage Supervisor Jay Brier, about the new La Crosse Winter Roots Festival happening February 12th. In the brand new Riverside Ballroom, we find out what they’re excited for with this newly remodeled space. They touch on public art, new state of the art equipment and the public’s response to the new additions. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 01:17
I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 01:18
And this is La Crosse Local.

Art Fakie 01:20
So we got a brand new building downtown, which is if you haven’t driven by it yet, it’s got a brand new brand to it. And looks fabulous. I think it’s a great addition to downtown for the quality of life and economic impact that’s going to deliver.

Brent Hanifl 01:33
So just hearing from some of you guys down there, but also just seeing the different events, what has been the public response? And also just like the bookings, it seems like you guys are full almost every day.

Art Fakie 01:43
Well, you know, we’ve been very busy with bookings, you know, and that’s been our success is having multiple small events throughout the course of the facility. You know, we have some of the larger ones that will get a lot of attention, you know, annually we talk about things like the Moses Campaign that comes in here from the organic farmers, we’ve got the sports vacation show, which takes up most of the building as well. And so now we’ve added some different kinds of space and different kinds of look here. And we’ll be multiple, we have multiple events. I mean, it wouldn’t be unusual for us to have four or five events, any particular day. That space that we’ve added is one particular area, the Riverside Ballroom. And that’s getting a lot of attention for conventions, and for a corporate business. And we’re already seeing that for weddings and banquets and the like as well. Well received and we’re moving forward with a lot of bookings here and keeping busy doing that, as well. Keeping the other part of the building is, you know, with the other pieces of the puzzle that we had before still happen pretty good too.

Brent Hanifl 02:43
Is there any part of the project that you’re, you know, really excited to see? I know, as we’re La Crosse Local, we kind of talk about art, we were really excited to see the great big images going up and also the public art that’s coming down the road. Is there anything in particular that you’re pretty fond of?

Art Fakie 02:57
Well, I don’t wanna take all the thunder here because you got Jay to give some discussion on this too. But, you know, number one is, I think the Riverside ballroom when some people have an opportunity to go up there and take a look at it. You know, one of the things we wanted to make sure is that we took advantage of the Mississippi River because that’s the side of the state what we are known for. If you don’t know, the Mississippi River is rolling through and you can’t miss it because that ballroom on the northwest corner, you can look up the Mississippi River. And you can see up the Black River and you can see the entrance of La Crosse River and overlooking Riverside Park and it was just spectacular during Rotary Lights that we just had here during the holidays. You know that’s that’s a view that in itself sells the whole building. And along with that is a rooftop terrace. And that same immediate area and it gives you a view of not only the river but also of downtown. So I think those are a couple of special things there. You know, we gave a facelift to the arena, we redid the North Hall. That combination is just given us a home run here. And it’s the kind of thing that only La Crosse can talk about, you know. If you want to talk about Green Bay and their amenities they’ve got, what they’ve got. Madison, the same thing. Fox River Valley, you know, they’ve got what they’ve got. But you know, when it comes to La Crosse, you know, here’s our specialties of having a historic downtown, great downtown for restaurants and nightlife and then the river right out our back door, which is quite a centerpiece to talk about.

Brent Hanifl 04:15
And Jay, is there anything you’re excited to see finished?

Jay Brier 04:18
Well yeah, starting to warm this new room up here, the new Riverside Ballroom is getting warm bodies up here. I’m very proud of the work that the team has done at the center. And Art like already alluded to, the architects and engineers and everybody that were in here to make this happen, but now it’s time to show it off. So what a great opportunity for La Crosse people and us here to to have the space and be able to do things that we’re doing moving forward.

Brent Hanifl 04:45
We also have the La Crosse Winter Roots Festival coming up Saturday, February 12th in the brand new Riverside ballroom. Jay what was the impetus for this festival?

Jay Brier 04:54
It kind of goes back a long ways for me, to be honest. You know, I’ve been doing what I do here at the center in the community here for a long time, you know, working for different companies throughout the years, building relationships with musicians and, and other chefs and restaurant tours, bartenders, you know, friendships and everything. And years ago, I had went to a festival in Madison, where they profiled, you know, local, and I just thought it was great. It was a summertime event. But once seeing the plans here for the Riverside ballroom, I thought what a great opportunity to kind of call in those favors of all the musicians that I’ve worked with in the past and in restaurants and bars and breweries and kind of get them in one room and share that that good, warm feeling that I got that when I was done in Madison. And now to bring it to La Crosse is, you know, super exciting for us.

Brent Hanifl 05:42
Being that this is one of the first public events in the ballroom, I believe so at least one of the first, it’s going to be pretty exciting. What can guests expect to see from this new facility? You know, maybe just the views or things like that, Art do you have any?

Art Fakie 05:55
Yeah you know, there’s some hidden things up there, which are going to be kind of nice. We talked about, you know, some of the public art and how that ties into it, we will be working on shortly after that putting up some artwork, which is a mosaic, which got a little publicity, and it’s gonna be a mosaic of a hering flying over the Mississippi River. And within the wingspan of the herring, it’s going to have weaving of the Hochunk Nation that is reminiscent of some of the baskets and things like that, that they’ve done. You know, and subliminally, if you look at the carpet, there’s a dark to a light type of flow in the carpet. And that it’s got a little bit of a wave look to it, that’s reminiscent of the Mississippi River. And when you go in the ballroom overhead, there’s some wood treatment. And that wood treatment kind of cascades over the wall. And again, it’s like a waterfall. So a lot of things that are referencing to water in the Mississippi River here that are are just kind of hidden gems within the room that was there, you know, and each room has got the ability to change colors of lights. So you know, if your theme for your event is blue, we can do that. If it’s pink, if it’s red, you know, we’ve got all those kinds of different colors that we can add to it. And it gives quite a quite nice feature to a room here, you know, that gives some flexibility. And technology has allowed us to do that. So we’re pretty excited about those kinds of things that people will see and then you know, might have to point them out to them. But they’re there.

Brent Hanifl 07:12
So Jay, being in the ballroom, what can people expect when they’re actually coming in the day of for La Crosse Winter Roots?

Jay Brier 07:18
We got a nice blend for everybody. That day, Saturday, the 12th is, you know, you start your day off with, you know, you walk through and you’ll see the Driftless Markers craft arts that they do that are going to be for sale for people. So you’ll get the ability to do a little shopping, and also just enjoy what you know, people bring artistically to that part of it. And also, you know, the community component we’re really proud of is working with the Hunger Task Force here locally. So, you know, we’re trying to root out hunger. Canned food drive, you know, there’s some silent auction, things going on, but better in conjunction with the events. That’s also just wonderful for the community. And then just an opportunity to see a diverse group of our local musicians that are kind of hit every mark from your country, to pop, maybe to classic rock into, you know, our headliner Trippin Billies doing some Dave Matthews Band tribute stuff. So you’re a fan of a particular type of music, you can kind of check all the boxes here that day. And then as far as cuisine goes, you know, we profiled a couple of our awesome local restaurants that are going to be here serving their food, and also, our local distilleries, and breweries will be here profiling, what they offer here as far as libations, and beer. So as far as your day goes, we kind of got it all covered for you.

Brent Hanifl 08:33
So our, this project has been going on for seven plus years, you know, you’ve been actually at the La Crosse Center for for a long time, are you gonna do any dancing at this event, or what’s going to happen?

Art Fakie 08:44
Hey, we’re gonna dance, this is gonna be fun. You know, I give credit to Jay. I mean, he grabbed a hold of this. And you know, when you’re, you’re bringing all these pieces together, you know, of the music and the food and the vendors and the advertising and doing things like this little podcast, you know, all these kind of things kind of come together. And he’s put together what we think is going to be a very successful type of event here. And I think it’s catching a lot of attention. And, you know, he’s got ideas here that we can expand on this, you know, for other events down the line. So I think he’s landed on something here that is going to be exciting. I think local folks will have an opportunity to see local talent, and it’s turning out right now to be very successful. So, you know, we’re very, very pleased where this is where this is going and what Jay has done to put this all together because it’s been a ton of work. And, you know, I can see him every day kind of going, oh, I gotta cover this. I gotta cover that, you know, but that’s okay. Because I think the proof of this and the enjoyment is going to be coming when we get everybody in there on February 12th.

Brent Hanifl 09:36
You know, everybody can go and basically pick up tickets at the La Crosse Center box office Monday through Friday 11 to 5pm, or they can pick them up on Ticketmaster. They can also check out lacrosselocal.com for updates on artists and food. For La Crosse Center, for people wanting to potentially rent it or just kind of check it out, what’s the best avenue for them to go to?

Jay Brier 09:56
I would say going, you know this very first start is going to the La Crosse Center website, lacrossecenter.com You know, there’s a few look-alike websites there. So make sure you go into the lacrossecenter.com one and it’ll navigate you to various areas that you can look at and get some information on. Or contact us directly in our contact information is in that website as well and we’d love to be able to talk to you because this is something I think the community of La Crosse can be very, very proud of. You got a brand new look to it. And it’s something that branding wise is, it’s I think iconic for downtown. And I think people are very, very proud couldn’t be if they haven’t seen it already they can be very, very proud of what’s been delivered here now downtown La Cross.

Amy Gabay 10:37
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse Local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.


About La Crosse Local

La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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