Canceled Oktoberfest a major blow to La Crosse economy and tradition

UW-Whitewater study estimates Oktoberfest brings $15 million economic impact to La Crosse region
Oktoberfest Canceled

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Money is lost that pays for people’s livelihoods in La Crosse after Oktoberfest decided there’s no celebration this year. Explore La Crosse executive director A.J. Frels sees dollars that won’t make their way to La Crosse when events are called off.

“The loss of Oktoberfest is enormous,” Frels said.

2019 Maple Leaf Parade Marshal Joe Heim said after Germany canceled its festival earlier this year, it was inevitable La Crosse would follow.

“In all the years we’ve been doing this, it’s never happened,” he said.

The area’s biggest draw adds to a long list of events that are planned for next year.

“The average festgoer spends a little more than $200 per person,” Frels said.

Frels said La Crosse ranks ninth out of 72 counties in visitor spending in Wisconsin. Just when things were looking better than ever this pandemic severed all economic momentum in just a few months.

“2019 was a record-setting year for tourism for the state of Wisconsin,” he said.

An estimated $15 million dollars won’t be spent at people’s restaurants, hotels, and businesses. It’s not just the money COVID-19 is taking away.

“I have never lived anywhere that has more festivals than this region,” Frels said.

The Oktoberfest tradition produces memories people keep forever.

“We are known nationally as one of the best Oktoberfests in the world,” Heim said.

2019 Maple Leaf Parade Marshal Joe Heim knows what it’s like to represent this celebration.

“It’s not as much work as you might think,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great honor by the way. It’s one of those once in a lifetime things that you live through the year.”

He said he has formed relationships unlike any other.

“It is like joining a family an extended family,” Heim said.

Safety is obviously the priority this year and Heim said people have to stay positive.

“If you’re not optimistic about the future you shouldn’t be in this business,” he said.

That doesn’t mean this cancelation isn’t painful in a year that has been especially hurtful to this world.

“It’s the mark of La Crosse and Oktoberfest is going to be missed by hundreds of thousands of people,” Heim said.

Heim said the event takes months of detailed planning. News 8 Now contacted officials from Oktoberfest but did not hear back Tuesday. We will update information on future plans when they are available.