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Riverside Park band shell group ready for spring construction
Roald Gundersen 

These conceptual drawings by Roald Gundersen give a general idea of what the shell overtop the Wendell Anderson bandstand would look like once complete. A consortium of users is raising private funds to pay for the project, which is intended to provide better acoustics and shelter for musicians.

The group behind the project to put a shell overtop the Riverside Park bandstand is ready to get started in just a few months, according to a presentation Thursday before the La Crosse parks board.

“We’re harvesting the trees right now that will be used in the project,” said Terry Bauer, a representative for the consortium of users raising private funds for the shell.

The consortium, which includes Rotary Lights, Moon Tunes, La Crosse Concert Band, Riverfest, La Crosse Jazz Orchestra and Explore La Crosse, has been raising private funds to add a roof to the bandstand, turning it into a true band shell, both to improve the acoustics and provide some shelter to those underneath.

The design, developed by architect Roald Gundersen, incorporates a round timber structure with arches mirroring the Cass Street bridge, ash tree columns and a copper fish-scale roof similar to the one on the Pettibone Park gazebo across the Mississippi River.

Architectural plans are in the process of getting approval from the state, with just a few tweaks.

“We’re looking at screwing in the footings to hold the band canopy up without fixing it to the bandstand, which we had originally suggested,” Bauer said.

The group has had good luck with donors, he said, raising more than $425,000 to reach 60 to 70 percent of its fundraising goal, both through selling personalized paver bricks and in donations from people invested in improving the venue for a variety of free concerts throughout the summer.

“Most of the money we’ve gotten is people just calling us up and saying, ‘We want to be part of the project,’ and we appreciate that,” Bauer said.

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As the city finishes up its restoration of the bandstand this spring, the consortium will start pouring footings to hold up the ash trees that will form the pillars holding up the copper fish-scale roof. As far as concerts like Moon Tunes go, the group will use the bandstand through the weekend of Riverfest and the Fourth of July. After the fest is over, they plan to close off the bandstand and get the canopy up.

They plan to reopen the bandstand for the Sept. 7 Woodstock tribute Moon Tunes event, which coincides with Gundersen Health System’s Stepping Out in Pink event.

“We think it’s a great time to kind of acknowledge everybody in the community who helped get the band shell completed, so it should be a really fun day in Riverside Park in September,” Bauer said.

While the bandstand is closed, the concerts will still go on. Bauer said the group hopes to work with the city to put up a temporary stage on the north end of Riverside Park that would house the musical acts people are accustomed to seeing all summer.

“It would be some adjustment, but we’d still like to use the park for those events, because that’s what everybody comes down for,” Bauer said.

The consortium’s construction plans fit with the city’s schedule, according to Jay Odegaard, interim director of parks, recreation and forestry.

“We’re in a place where we don’t have to move people out. It actually works better for us than having the unknown of having to shut it down again with the rentals for next year,” Odegaard said.

After the canopy is finished, it is expected to last 100 years, according to the architect, and the group plans to leave the city with a maintenance budget and plan to keep the structure in good shape.

Photos: 2018 Moon Tunes performances at Riverside Park in La Crosse
Photos: 2018 Moon Tunes performances at Riverside Park in La Crosse

Onalaska Sunday school class collecting diapers for moms in need
Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

The 6th grade Sunday school class at United Methodist Church in Onalaska — including teachers Megan Pence and Ray Mahr, and students Rylee Beahm, from left, 12, John Gobel, 11, and Westley Mahr, 11 — are holding a Love-4-Luvs diaper drive for the Onalaska Food Basket.

Any mom can tell you that diapers top the list of expenses that come with a new baby. And for the one in three U.S. moms struggling to afford the average $75 a month cost, it’s a hardship that trickles down to many aspects of life.

“There are no government programs you can buy diapers with,” says Megan Pence, co-leader of the Onalaska United Methodist Church sixth grade Sunday School class. “Most daycares require you to bring your own diapers. Having diapers for babies helps mom go to work — if baby can’t go to daycare, one parent has to stay home. And if it’s a single parent, that’s even (harder). It’s a ripple effect.”

Inspired by a project she completed with her confirmation class, Pence proposed a diaper collection for the Sunday School’s community project, sharing statistics from the National Diaper Bank Network. Learning babies average six to 10 diapers a day, and 5.2 million children younger than 3 live in poor or low-income families, the nine class members were eager to help, kicking off the Love-4-Luvs campaign on Feb. 1 with a goal of collecting 5,000 diapers by the end of the month for the Onalaska Food Basket.

“There’s, like, families that can’t afford diapers and they’re really expensive,” said Westley Mahr, 11.

As of Wednesday, the class had collected 3,800 diapers, with Pence and co-leader Ray Mahr using their own money to buy some of the stock and congregation members and community members responding generously as well.

“It’s pretty cool how helpful people are,” said Mahr, who has had friends reach out to assist. “People who don’t even belong to this church are helping out. It’s a cool thing.”

Class member Rylee Beahm, 12, dropped by Target with her family to buy two cases for the collection, and using gift cards and monetary donations, the class will buy diapers during a field trip on March 2 before dropping off their haul at the Food Basket on March 3.

“It’s going to be really exciting to bring those boys diaper shopping,” Pence said of the three male class members. John Gobel, for one, was looking forward to the excursion.

Proclaimed the 11-year-old class member, “I know how to find deals.”

Diaper and monetary donations can be dropped off between 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at Onalaska United Methodist Church. For more information, call the church office at 608-783-3380.


Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

UW-La Crosse 285 pounder Konrad Ernst trains with assistant coach Austin Goergen Tuesday at the Cartwright Center. Ernst, an All-American last season, has upped his game this year working with Goergen, a four-time Division II national qualifier.