2014 Oktoberfest will be different than usual

In just over a week, tens of thousands of people will flood La Crosse for the annual Oktoberfest celebration. And they should be prepared for some big changes to the festival this year.

The fest is only four days, an there is construction on the grounds and surrounding them as well. But have no fear — organizers are prepared for it all.

“Instead of it being kind of a middle distance race, it’s going to be a sprint,” La Crosse Festivals President Doug Kratt said.

Even though Oktoberfest is four days instead of its usual nine, organizers says things aren’t changing.

“I think we’re going a little bit back to our roots. So what they’re going to see is pretty much everything we’ve done in nine days, that we’re going to be shooting down into four days,” Kratt said. “Really just kind of compressing everything down.”

Since last year’s festival, there has been some construction on the grounds, which Kratt said is only going to enhance the experience.

“We don’t have our traditional beer hall that we’ve had, but we’re going to be putting tents up in its place, which will actually give it a little bit more of a Munich feel than we’ve had in the past,” Kratt said.

But that isn’t the only construction affecting this year’s fest. There is demolition of an old warehouse directly across from the fest grounds at La Crosse and 2nd streets. There is also work near Riverside Park on State and Front streets.

Both construction sites will affect parade routes, but the La Crosse Police Department says it’s got it covered.

“We have met with the construction people, asking for a few things to be done such as the fencing, making sure that is all tight so that people can’t get in there. We will also have staff that will be assigned specifically to that area during the Torchlight parade, because it’s just not a safe area,” La Crosse police Sgt. Randy Rank said.

Rank said the construction sites will be closely monitored at all times during Oktoberfest.

He also said with the new four-day schedule, the department doesn’t exactly know what to expect, but it’s preparing with extra staff.

“We bring in our extra officers, we bring in the Wisconsin State Patrol and we also bring in outside agencies to help us during this event,” Rank said.

Kratt said with the shorter schedule the motto this year is: four days of festival, three parades, two festival grounds, one great event.