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Oktoberfest vendors brace for shorter 2014 fest

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Oktoberfest is one of the most anticipated events in La Crosse, but not just for fest goers.

The nine-day event brings in some big business for vendors at the fest-grounds, but some are concerned about what will happen next year when the celebration is cut in half.

Officials decided to turn Oktoberfest into a nine-day celebration in 2000. They thought a second weekend would give the event some cushion in case some days got rained out.

As the marching bands and floats make their way past the Oktoberfest fest grounds, vendors inside are busy preparing for what happens after the Maple Leaf Parade ends.

"This is the calm before the storm, and right now our crew is getting ready for the big onslaught of all the cheese curd revelers and party goers," said Patti LaFleur, owner of Kate's Kitchen.

LaFleur has set up a booth at Oktoberfest for the last 21 years. She travels to eight festivals throughout the year, but this is the one she looks forward to the most.

"It's definitely our best money maker," said LaFleur.

With next year's fest only four days long, she said she'll need good weather in order to maintain profits.

"Being in this business is kind of risky anyways because it definitely is weather related, and you can guarantee you're going to do very well financially, if the weather is good," said LaFleur.

A couple of stalls down from LaFleur's, a shortened Oktoberfest also has Mr. Ed's Corndogs and Funnel Cakes worried.


"Instead of nine days it's going to be four days, so we're losing five days-worth of revenue," said Bill Fiel of Mr. Ed's Corndogs and Funnel Cakes.

President of Oktoberfest, Kam-Lin Roswell, said a shorter celebration might bring out more people and give more vendors the opportunity to sell.

"For the four day fest, both north and south side grounds will be open, so we'll have vendors spread from both grounds and actually we could probably have more vendors than we have now," said Roswell.

LaFleur said they'll just have to wait and see, and hope for good weather.

"Four seems kind of short, but on the other hand, if we have good weather during those days, than everybody should come out pretty good still," said LaFleur.

While the vendors said these first few days of Oktoberfest are the best for business, opening during the lunch hour and in the evenings throughout the rest of fest also helps bring in revenue.

Some of the food stands are run by nonprofits.

The Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps has run the brat stand for 40 years. Oktoberfest happens to be its biggest fundraiser and brings in several thousand dollars for the group each year.

While they too are concerned about a shorted fest next year, they say they should be OK, provided there's good weather during the four days.

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