Wisconsin and Michigan have their fair share of similarities. They’re both nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Each state has beautiful natural wonders, kind people, and great beer. A large portion of both state’s populations cheer for the Packers. Heck, even some of each state’s city names are similar.

We’ve already written about Zilwaukee—a small Michigan city named with the intention of fooling people into thinking they were moving to Milwaukee—and we’ve already compared Sheboygan, Wisconsin to the similarly-pronounced Cheboygan, Michigan. Now we’re going to focus on two cities in these neighboring states that share the exact same name. Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Eau Claire, Michigan were founded around the same time. The cities are more than 425 miles apart, and (despite their overlapping names) they seem to be incredibly different places. We decided to do a little digging—emphasis on “a little”—and we’ve determined which of these two Midwestern places wins “The Clash of the Claires” once and for all.

History

Michigan’s Eau Claire was established in 1861, apparently deciding to name its community after the French singular term for “clear water” because a nearby creek appeared to have clear water. Riveting stuff!

Wisconsin’s Eau Claire got its name in similar fashion, after French explorers allegedly found the region’s river (now known as the Eau Claire River) to be far more clear and favorable than the connected Chippewa River. Though visited by European settlers as early as the late 1600s, permanent European-American settlers didn’t call Eau Claire home until around 1845. Eau Claire, Wisconsin was officially incorporated in 1872.

Advantage: Draw

Size & Population

At its peak in the year 2000, the 0.84 square mile Michigan village had a population of 656. Eau Claire, Michigan’s estimated population is currently estimated to be 597. Meanwhile, the Western Wisconsin hub is continually increasing in population, currently boasting an all-time high total of about 69,000 residents within its borders. At this point in time, it’s Wisconsin’s 8th most populated city. In your face, Janesville!

Advantage: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Summer Festivals

Every July (at least in normal times), Michigan’s Eau Claire comes together for its annual Cherry Festival, which features a popular Cherry-Spitting Championship as one of its events. Sadly, the festival wasn’t able to take place this year due to funding issues resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Not to be outdone by those pit-spitters to the east, Wisconsin’s Eau Claire has a few festivals of its own. Included in its annual festivities are large-scale events like Country Jam, Eau Claire Jazz Fest, and Blue Ox Music Festival (which is returning August 19-21!). Though its on an indefinite hiatus, Justin Vernon’s Eaux Claires festival also brought performers and show-goers from all over the country to Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Advantage: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Sports

Eau Claire, Michigan has cherry-spitting. Eau Claire, Wisconsin has a semi-professional baseball team, a marathon that serves a Boston Marathon qualifying event, and a history of hosting world horseshoe championships. The latter city also has UW-Eau Claire, which offers NCAA-caliber action in a variety of sports.

Advantage: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Dining & Drinking

With all due respect to the 597-person Michigan village, we have our doubts that a handful of remarkable restaurants, wineries, bars, bakeries, or breweries could possibly be found in a place that’s less than a square mile in size. There might be a gem or two in Eau Claire, Michigan, but that’s probably it. We don’t really have to even do any research to safely assume Wisconsin’s Eau Claire offers much more in the way of dining and drinking. Plus, there are a few breweries in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and a number of chain restaurants.

Advantage: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVBSUH1HT5A

Notable Residents

We really struggled to find anyone famous or socially significant with ties to Eau Claire, Michigan. We’re just going to assume Rick “Pellet Gun” Krause, world champion cherry pit spitter from the video we included in the “Summer Festivals” potion of this article and say he’s probably the locale’s most notable resident.

Conversely, Eau Claire, Wisconsin actually has a surprising number of notable locals it’s able to claim. In the realm of music, Bon Iver himself (Justin Vernon) calls Eau Claire home. Indie musicians S. Carey, Ryan Olson, and Christopher Porterfield also have musical roots in the city. Menards founder John Menard and former Charles Manson girlfriend Mary Brunner are from Eau Claire, too. Fledgling actor/sports over-reactor/”Stop The Steal” dipshit Kato Kaelin attended UW-Eau Claire. And in the world of sports, former Badgers basketball coach Dick Bennett, NHL player Alex Hicks, ex-Twins starting pitcher Brad Radke, and veteran NFL lineman Jerry Wunsch have all called Eau Claire, Wisconsin home at some point. That’s just a few of the many accomplished folks with ties to the city.

Advantage: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

About The Author

Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.

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