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The Heartbeat Of Altoona

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Chapter Twelve
The Heartbeat of Altoona
By John R. Thurston
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here are increasing signs that Altoonians have come to regard
their city as a truly special place. “Cinder City Days” has long
been a rallying point for them. This three-day annual event held in
June is centered at the Altoona City Park and the Altoona Hobbs
Sports building. It provides entertainment, a carnival, parade, and
miscellaneous activities to celebrate Altoona’s railroading past.
The Altoona VFW Post 10405, provides monthly breakfasts
where Altoonians and others may gather to eat, talk, and linger as
they enjoy good fellowship with one another. There were also
some signs of a re-awakening of the Post’s interest in establishing
a long-delayed veteran’s park .– this time in the new River Prairie
In the summer of 2009, there were additional indicators that
Altoonians want to make their city special.
Family Ties-Altoona, a grassroots organization, has become
actively interested in the construction of a community center. The
group, initially consisting of ten parents, sought to “promote a
stronger, more unified sense of community in a clean and safe
environment.” In their view, there was a lack of recreational
opportunities outside of those provided by the school.
Out of the woodwork, they came in June 2009. 10 parents of
children who attend Altoona Schools (Maurice McIntyre, Tammy
McIntyre, Jason Jones, Andrea Jones, Bhaskar Gaddam, Udaya
Gaddam, Yee Ngan, Julie Tobias, Neil Bauer, and Cora Overboe).
They are ethnically, socially, politically, and economically diverse
with the desire to encourage the Altoona Community to "embrace
diversity through experience". Where little or no activities existed
on a regular basis that were friendly for all ages, Family Ties
decided to open a Community Center that serves all people in
Altoona that is a chill cafe for adults and an arts club for students.
Fund-raising activities for the non-profit organization include an
annual Taste of Harmony Fest held around July at the Altoona City
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10th St. Park. A variety of foods are served such as American,
Asian, Jamaican, Indian, and Vegetarian. Local bands play all day
and children's activities include inflatables. Other fund-raising
activities include "Flick Nites" (movies), "Band Jams", and
"Dance-offs". Regular activities at the "Fisch Haus Center"
include homework help, stand-up poetry, painting and drawing
workshops, singing and acting talent shows, a place for young
bands to practice, adult cafe with live music and patio
accommodations, as well as parent workshops and collaborations.
Family Ties is making a difference!
Family Ties at the Active and Alive Healthy Hobby Fair held at
The Second WHYS Bluegrass Festival was held at the Lake
Altoona County Park on August 22, 2009.
A very successful “Back to School Ice Cream Social” took place
at the Altoona City Park on August 26, 2009 to celebrate the
beginning of the new school year. Over a thousand cones were
provided at this event.
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The 2
Annual Wellness Health Hobby Fair was held on
September 13, 2009 at the Hobbs Altoona Sports Complex. With
free parking/admission, great food, and prizes awarded throughout
the day, there was something for everyone. A collaborative
community-focused committee, Active and Alive in Altoona, is
responsible for this fair. Earlier in 2009, this same group had
partnered with Health4Life in a weight-reduction effort entitled
Losin’ It In Altoona Challenge. A similar collaborative effort, a
series of “rain or shine” walks took place in September/October,
The History of Active & Alive in Altoona
In 2008 Karen Ostenso wrote and received a grant to boost
the Altoona School District wellness efforts. Karen contacted
Colleen Weber an elected official on the Altoona City Council and
after some discussion the city employees joined the
school employees and the two groups combined their efforts to
increase wellness in Altoona. A partnership with a class from UW-
Eau Claire helped the group assess wellness plans that were in
place or sort through different ideas that could be implemented to
get employees more involved in leading healthy lifestyles. A
joint committee of the school and city eventually led to health
evaluations, recipe ideas with healthier ingredients were published
with pay stubs and a competitive kickball game between City and
School District employees was scheduled! Just for the historical
value, the School District teams won three out of four games on a
sunny afternoon in May 2008.
While working on their next project - a wellness fair, the
committee continued to expand their horizons. The first ever,
Wellness/Healthy Hobby Fair was held at the Hobbs Sports Arena
on a Sunday afternoon in September 2008. With 80+ exhibitors
representing nonprofit groups, clubs, and wellness-related
businesses, the free event attracted around 500 visitors.
In October 2008, the committee could have taken a well-
deserved break, but instead, the group began planning another first
– a three month wellness challenge open to any and all adults in
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and around Altoona.
Active and Alive’s three month wellness challenge started on
February 1, 2009 with 65 registered participants. Participants
could earn points toward the grand prize – a one-year fitness
center membership, in a variety of ways including wearing their
seat belt, drinking water, eating vegetables, or by attending
wellness workshops and activities especially designed by the
committee. Ninety-percent of participants responding to the
program survey said they would participate again in 2010.
Committee membership expanded yet again into the
community, the committee met diligently, and the 2
Wellness/Healthy Hobby Fair was held on September 13, 2009.
A city employee, Ann Lien served as the first official chair of
Active and Alive in Altoona until October 2008. Active and Alive
is currently chaired by Joyce Orth, an employee of the School
District of Altoona. Other officers include Sheila Lehnen,
treasurer, and Debra Goldbach, secretary.
The committee’s efforts continue to be supported and
improved upon through the generous contributions of many
sponsors in and around the Chippewa Valley.
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Nick, Madelyn and Liliana enjoying the AHS Dance Team
Pictured (center) is Joyce Orth, Chair, Active & Alive in Altoona
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The 10
Annual Clearwater Beer Festival was held on
September 12, 2009 at a new location, the Altoona Hobbs Sports
Center, 2300 Spooner Avenue, Altoona Wisconsin. It featured over
100 craft beers from Wisconsin breweries and beyond. Fest-goers
received commemorative glasses, beer samples, great food, music,
and door prizes.
Music in the Park. An informal music fest held every Tuesday
night in the Altoona City Park. This event was sponsored by Steve
and Doris Szydel with Jack Blackburn pitching in to help. . The
last night in the 2009 series, September 8, provided an opportunity
to picnic and get acquainted with others. Plans are already
underway for 2010.
Steve and Doris – this time at the Active and Alive Healthy Hobby
Fair held at Hobbs
The Ski Sprites Water Ski Show is an organization now located
in Altoona, Wisconsin. They perform at 6:30 on Wednesday and
Sundays from June through Labor Day at their Lake Altoona
location in Eau Claire County Park. They have been entertaining
the Chippewa Valley since 1960.
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The Altoona Athletic Booster Club sponsored a trip on
September 12, 2009 to Madison to see the Wisconsin Badgers play
Fresno State. This group hosted “Brat Feed” after the
Homecoming parade and before the football game on September
The Altoona Lions Club is truly “The Heartbeat of Altoona.”
The activities and influence of this club are too numerous to
mention – if you have ever been to Cinder City Days then you
know about the Lions Club. BRAVO, from all of us in Altoona!
The Altoona Lions Club – this time at the Active and Alive
Healthy Hobby Fair held at Hobbs
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While the emergence of these organizations and their events are
encouraging signs of a unique Altoona identity, their success will
depend upon the interest, involvement, and support of all citizens
of Altoona. Important memories may be formed and shared
through participation in these programs and in the interpersonal
relationships developing within them. Such events and the
resulting memories, perhaps innocuous and seemingly
insignificant at the time, are important elements in the stuff that is
Altoona history. Attendance by outsiders is solicited. However,
without Altoona support for new initiatives, such as those reported
above, they may wane and wither on the vine.
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