The Chaska Wheel

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The Chaska Wheel is a kind of living meme resulting from a proposal I shared with the City of Chaska and then never let go. Whenever I see the Mayor or City Councilors around town, they bring it up. My friends are always asking for updates. My kids talk about it as inevitable. My wife is sick of it entirely.

The Chaska Wheel has become a living vision of what’s possible when a local dork just doesn’t let a good idea die. And of today, it’s a satirical campaign to celebrate my 40th birthday.

Check out:

Here’s a fantastic video from our Mayor, who is very much in on the joke…

The Backstory:

I’ve been on a couple City Council task forces for city planning in the last decade. Our committees help write the downtown master plan that led to the hugely successful Chaska Curling Center. The latest task force is helping redevelop a full city square block in the downtown area (and a block from our house). Depending on the economy and developer interest, it will probably happen in the next 5-10 years.

As part of that process, I suggested a few concepts to be at the center of the development, including a year-round, city-owned Ferris wheel. It was a bold recommendation I believed would serve will serve as the focal point and repeatable destination for Historic Downtown Chaska.

And it became a meme around town. And now it’s going to be a meme for life.

To be clear: in a pandemic, in a recession, and in an election year, this is all quite silly and there are things that are way more important. Pragmatically, the city and our community has more important things to focus on than a silly attraction that wouldn’t make fiscal, logistical, or even cultural sense right now. So it’s important to put that context around this gift my friends put together. This is more about them showing me love for my birthday around something I was passionate about — good or bad idea.

The pitch:

The Chaska Wheel will help us capture the gorgeous views of City Square Park, the MN river valley and create a unique skyline to Historic Downtown Chaska. Adding a ferris wheel design to the Historic Downtown Chaska logo and style-guide will also increase the impact of our branding materials as a mnemonic that could literally put us on the map in a different way for decades to come. More importantly, it will get us in all of the top 10 must-do things in the greater metro area. It will help Chaska stand out from Stillwater and downtown Hopkins and Red Wing in its own unique way. 

And check out this photo from the Chaska Historical Society that shows a precedent — a ferris wheel in City Square Park in 1953.

The Chaska Wheel would serve as another destination for visitors like the Chaska Curling Center. Designed to be operated year-round, the wheel could be the feature in the complex that includes library, parking ramp and restaurants incorporated into it (e.g., Betty Dangers in NE Minneapolis). Just as The Old Mill at the Minnesota State Fair became a repeatable destination across the generations, the Chaska Wheel in Historic Downtown Chaska could serve as the anchor for our community for decades to come.

The 40TH BIRTHDAY Campaign

Thanks to my really good friends and wonderful wife, there is a massive sign in my front yard and campaign website featuring 50+ videos both advocating for the Chaska Wheel and celebrating my birthday.

I was SO SURPRISED. And couldn’t stop laughing. And feel so loved.

We’ve got the Mayor of Chaska, a city councilor, two local TV news journalists (Jason DeRusha and Chris DeLong), my parents and wife and kids, tons of beloved friends, coworkers, and so many “celebrities” – like Mark McGrath, Rebecca Black, Tay Zonday, Gilbert Gottfried, Rod Blagojevich, Tommy Chong, William Hung, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Ed Begley Jr., Mark Russell, Danny Bonaduce, Thad Lewis, Kermit the Frog, Morgan Tuck, Barry Williams – who all recorded videos, wrote songs, produced the history of Ferris wheels, and more… Just amazing.

I can’t say enough about this. It’s humbling and wonderful. Thank you all so much.

And the giant sign in front of our house is massive. We have so much traffic past our house that have to be wondering what the heck is going on. Amazing.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

THANK YOU to everyone who helped pull this together. A wonderful 40th birthday surprise. Be sure to peruse all the videos. I just… am so blown away.

And who knows.. maybe we’ll get that ferris wheel built yet.

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