Kowalczyk, 66, was thrilled when he received a call two months ago, asking him if he would serve as grand marshal for the 2022 Pure Water Days Parade. Kowalczyk, who is retiring in January after more than 40 years in law enforcement, said he didn’t hesitate to accept.
“I said I would be more than honored,” Kowalczyk said. “This is an honor to the outgoing sheriff, and I’ll meet people I probably hadn’t met in my capacity as sheriff. And I can thank Chippewa County for all the opportunities they’ve allowed me to participate in in my career. ”
This isn’t his first time serving as grand marshal this year; he served in that role in May in his hometown parade in Boyd.
Kowalczyk joined the Cadott Police Department in 1977, the Chippewa County traffic police in 1978 and has been with the sheriff’s department since they merged. He had stints as an investigator, the area SWAT team, and two years in the West Central Drug Task Force.
He was elected sheriff in 2006 and won re-election in 2010, 2014 and 2018. He oversees a department of 104 full- and part-time employees. He opted to retire rather than seek another term, with his final day in January when the new sheriff is sworn in.
Chippewa Falls Main Street Director Teri Ouimette said Kowalczyk was an easy, obvious selection for this year’s grand marshal.
“It’s a great way for the community to recognize and thank him for his 40 years of service,” Ouimette said. “And everybody knows Jim. He meets so many people. He’s active in the community.”
This year marks the 45th annual Pure Water Days (the 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19 precautions), and this year’s theme is “Jungle Safari.”
“We do require they go with the theme,” Ouimette said. “We highly stress that in both (summer and winter) parades; it’s for the kids.”
Ouimette said she tries to keep the parade to under an hour in length.
“We have over 50 floats,” she said.
Ouimette is optimism for a good turnout this year.
“It’s locals, but we get a lot of out-of-town people too. People say, ‘I love Chippewa. It’s a thriving downtown,'” she said.
Classic cars also will line up at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds and they’ll follow the parade route. Then they will park on North Bridge Street to begin a car show in downtown.
When the parade ends, Riverfest will begin at 2 pm at Chippewa Riverfront Park. The festival will feature two live bands, food trucks, a beer tent, craft vendors, and giant inflatables and games for the children. Ouimette said her office will be providing free bubbles and chalk for children to play with. Riverfest should wrap up by 8 pm Saturday.