Volunteers finish final touches on Riverfest 2013

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Thousands of people will be heading down to Riverside Park from July 3-6 for Riverfest 2013.

"We're psyching ourselves up for it, and (there are going to be) a lot of sleepless nights ahead of us," said Nick Bjerke, media director for Riverfest.

Bjerke said this year, they're even more excited for one particular thing.

"We're looking forward to a relaxing weekend instead of just (being) sweat-covered and drenched," said Bjerke.

This time last year was the start of a deadly heatwave across the region. The sizzling temperatures kept many people away and burned up about 40 percent of proceeds that were supposed to help several dozen organizations in the area.

Bjerke said it will take a few years to make up for that loss.


"We had so much product wasted," said Bjerke. "We lost a lot, and our goal to bring it in -- entertainment is very expensive. That's the largest part of our budget, and it's not getting cheaper every year."

While heat doesn't seem to be as big of an issue this year, the high water level is creating more of a challenge.

This is the first time Riverfest's Marion Byerson has ever had to cancel the water ski shows.

"Well, you've got debris floating down -- trees and other things floating down that could cause harm to people in the water, especially the skiers because they won't see it coming," said Byerson.

While the shows are one tradition that won't take place this year, Byerson still expects a big turnout for other water shows, including the fly-board jet-pack water event, the Venetian parade of lights, fireworks and the dragon boat races.

"I think the fact that we've got two new water events coming, that should draw the people in and (be) something different for them to see, but we definitely don't want to see our water ski shows leave, as well," said Byerson.

Bjerke said there will be plenty to enjoy in the spirit of Riverfest.

"Why we do it is just for fun and to celebrate the Fourth of July. It's not about the entertainment of the bands, the jugglers, magicians, hypnotists and everything else," said Bjerke. "It's about really the entertainment that you get with your family and being outdoors and enjoying La Crosse for what it is."

Byerson said if the river levels go down enough below flood stage, there is a chance at least one of the water ski shows could come back.

Tuesday is the last day to buy buttons and tickets at prefest prices. Prices go up starting Wednesday, and tickets and buttons are only available at the park.

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