December 10, 2023

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WATCH NOW: Chippewa Falls Main Street director aims to help the town flourish | News

Teri Ouimette, the director of Chippewa Falls Main Street, works to ensure that downtown Chippewa Falls has what it needs to flourish. With its parades, car shows, clean-up projects, historic preservation, downtown revitalization and business assistance programs, the organization keeps itself pretty busy.

“We do everything here actually,” Ouimette said. “When you see any parades going on, that’s what we do. We do the festivals. We do the farmers market. We do all the retail events. We do sweepstakes. We do Halloween. We do the Christmas parade.”

In the summertime, Chippewa Falls Main Street five car shows on Saturdays.

“I think we had over 200 cars downtown for the last one,” Ouimette said. “We shut down the main drag and park the cars, and everybody walks around. It’s a great time. People eat at the restaurants and enjoy themselves.”

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Then the second week of August is Pure Water Days. This year will offer the 45th annual Pure Water Days Parade, which starts at the courthouse and goes south toward the roundabout.

“It’s about an hour long parade and then right after that down at the Riverfront Park, we have River Fest, which is a community fun event,” Ouimette said. “We have giant inflatables, magic shows, live music with two bands. We have beer, of course, we’re in Wisconsin. We have giant bubbles and a lot of free stuff for kids plus vendors and nine food trucks.”

Pure Water Days is a citywide event that goes from Thursday, Aug. 11, to Sunday, Aug. 14. The parade and River Fest runs from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. down at the riverfront on Saturday, Aug. 13.

But Chippewa Falls Main Street does more than organize festivals and parades. The organization also facilitates low- or no-income loans for property owners to rehab their business facades.

Ouimette said that the organization has been around since 1989. The nonprofit is one of many involved in the Main Street nationwide program. But Chippewa Falls Main Street was one of the first to begin the national program, Ouimette said.

Ouimette looks forward to working with business owners, she said. One of the things Chippewa Falls Main Street does that is atypical is that it will set up a website and Facebook page for small downtown businesses and show business owners how to maintain them.

“Going on a one on one with business owners, I think is really, really cool; getting to know them and getting to know their businesses,” she said.

Ouimette is a previous business owner in downtown Chippewa Falls.

“For about 15 years I was partners with my sister, so I kind of have a background in that,” she said. “You know you got to be a little bit out there to be a business owner. You got to really be able to take the dip and really dive in and want to do it. It takes a special kind of person, and I really appreciate that.”

Ouimette grew up as a military brat. Her dad had a career in the Navy. Although born in Hawaii, she grew up mostly in Norfolk, Virginia, but admits she has lived all over.

She’s one of six children, and her mom is originally from Chippewa Falls. She said her parents retired here, and she graduated from high school in Chippewa Falls.

“I think when you’re 18 you’re like, ‘I can I can hardly wait to get out of this town. I’m leaving. I’m going to New York.’ As the years went on, it was like, ‘Wow, Chippewa really is pretty special.’”

Because Ouimette didn’t grow up in one place, she thought it was important for her daughter to have that opportunity. That’s why she stayed.

“I didn’t grow up where you went to school with somebody from kindergarten to high school, and I always wanted that for my for my daughter,” she said. “She has had that. So and she’s known people all of her life. And I think that that’s really important.”

Above all Ouimette said her work is her way to show Chippewa Falls how much she cares about it. That’s why she’s been here all these years.

“At my job we’re continually working on the events and that’s really fun, but it’s the people that make this place special,” she said. “You never know who is going to walk through the door or call up on the phone. That’s pretty cool. I love it.”