Local News

Oktoberfest to be 4 days long beginning 2014

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Tens of thousands of people come to La Crosse every year to celebrate Oktoberfest.

But starting next year, they'll have to do all their "festing" in just four days instead of nine.
The change is for the 2014 festival, not the one coming up this fall.

"Just because it's only four days doesn't mean we're not going to have nine days worth of activity into four days," said Oktoberfest Executive Director Tina Severson.

Here's the four-day 2014 schedule (as of May 21, 2013):
Thursday, September 25: Festgrounds open at 4 p.m.; Torchlight Parade (evening)
Friday, September 26: Opening Day Ceremony; Festmaster Ball (evening)
Saturday, September 27: Maple Leaf Parade (morning)
Sunday, September 28: Parade Marshal Pancake Breakfast; Ecumenical Service

Severson said the decision to shorten the event won't impact festgoers' favorite actvities.

"There's been conversation about really condensing the festival and focusing it more on the specific heritage pieces and our very successful events, and just really making a very robust activity schedule and giving everybody an opportunity to really participate in all the things that they wanted to participate in," said Severson.


La Crosse Area Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director Dave Clements said it's an event that has a multimillion-dollar economic impact on the city.

"Some people were questioning whether there would be a change in the economic impact. And really, I don't see any change," said Clements. "The first weekend is the big focus. That's where all the people come from all over the country, all over the world. That second weekend has become much more of a local weekend."

But the general manager at the Hampton Inn in Onalaska, Valerie Erickson, said that second weekend still brings in business and she's sad to see it go.

"I was surprised and disappointed," said Erickson. "There will definitely be an impact. However, there would be a much greater impact if the entire festival, the event, was lost to the area."

Severson said new city fees placed on Oktoberfest, as well as many other events in the city, were not a major factor in this decision. She said the change has been in the works for at least three years and the city fees just started two years ago.

The Oktoberfest board has not decided which, if any, events will have to be cut because of the four-day format.

The Royal Family will still being making its rounds in the community to schools and nursing homes during and after the fest.

Oktoberfest leadership has not decided yet whether to change button prices in 2014.

Oktoberfest didn't actually become a nine-day festival until 2000, when fest leadership decided a second weekend would give the event some cushion in case some days got rained out. Now Severson said it's time the fest returned to its roots.

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