New Stage, Jazz Series and 400 Block Sign in works

By: Laura Schulte at Wausau Daily Herald

Catch some jazz this summer, right down the steps from the library.

A reoccurring weekly jazz series is just one of the projects that the Wausau River District has in the works, to add to the lively culture in the downtown area during the summer months, said Liz Field, the executive director of the nonprofit agency.

The River District plans to install the stage on the concrete patio behind the Marathon County Public Library. The stage will be home to a new weekly jazz series that will start in July and span eight weeks.

When the stage isn't being used for jazz music on Sunday afternoons, it will be open to members of the public to reserve for free. Performers can make reservations as few as two days before using the stage.

Field said the idea is to have a smaller stage, which makes performances more intimate for those not ready to rock The 400 Block.

"It's a literal platform for local artists to build their performance chops," Field said.

The stage will be set up on the patio behind the library, with the dam in the background. It won't be a permanent fixture though; it will be taken down each fall and likely stored by Wisconsin Public Service.

The idea for a jazz series came from Denise Sauter, a board member of the River Valley Jazz Society.

"We have a rich culture of jazz in the area," Denise said. But she also noticed that there aren't many venues where musicians can perform.

Sauter hopes the stage will encourage not only jazz artists but also all types of performers to take the stage for an intimate audience.

"The performing arts are such a great opportunity to step outside of the box and bring a gift to people," Sauter said. "And share the gift of performing."

The River District will purchase the stage later this spring, using money won through a community enhancement grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin, worth $12,950. The nonprofit is currently searching for a stage to fit its needs. It will likely go up in May and be ready for performers by the beginning of the summer.

The River District is also working towards installing an upcoming events sign, where residents can find information on what's coming to The 400 Block.The sign likely will find its home somewhere along Third Street, according to Field.

"It will show that there's a lot going on here, and make it easy and accessible to (see) what it is," she said.

The sign will be labeled "Upcoming Events" and will have space for several posters for event organizers to hang posters. It will be placed off the road, and will be a permanent structure. The River District is currently waiting on local companies to submit ideas and prices for building the sign.

"These projects have showcased some of the best public-private partnerships," she said. "From the city committee of parks and recreation to the River Valley Jazz Society, we've had so many partners participate. We're really fortunate to have community support that will create a more vibrant place to live, work and play."

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