Take a two hour drive north along Interstate 39 from Madison, WI and you will eventually come across the city of Wausau, Wisconsin. Named after a Chippewa word meaning “a faraway place”, Wausau is the seat of Marathon County and home for 40,000 people. In the early part of the nineteenth century, Wausau became a popular destination for people along the east coast who wanted to head west to make a new life for themselves. The area’s proximity to the Wisconsin River and the burgeoning lumber industry helped to spur on the growth of the city in its early years,
Today, Wausau is known as Arts Town, USA, due to its devotion to the arts. In fact, the city ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for per-capita support of the arts in cities with a population under 125,000. Institutions such as the Woodson Art Museum, promote and display several art exhibitions throughout year and provide a wealth of learning opportunities through workshops and classes. A popular yearly event is the Chalkfest, which gathers artists of all levels and ages for the purpose of brightening up the city’s downtown sidewalks with pastel artwork.
Other festivals include the Balloon and Rib Fest, which, like its name suggests, showcases hot-air balloons. Wausau also hosts Wisconsin’s longest-running blues festival, the Big Bull Falls Blues Fest. This music festival has been bringing musical talent and acts to Wausau’s Fern Island Park for the past 20 years. Thanks to the support of generous sponsors, free smaller festivals dot the calendar, keeping residents and visitors busy, including the Screen on the Green, Concerts on the Square and Harvest Fest.
Finally, Wausau enjoys the presence of fantastic historical structures. The Andrew Warren Historic District is home to two Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes. Another historic home that draws many visitors is the Yawkey House Museum, which houses part of the Marathon County Historical Society and serves as a repository of furnishings and architecture from the city’s past.