La Crosse Police, RiverWatch prepare for busy Oktoberfest weekend

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Thousands of people look forward to Oktoberfest every year. With high traffic and big crowds, the fest is an extra-busy time for law enforcement.

“We are amping up for a great Oktoberfest this year,” said Lt. Linnea Miller of the La Crosse Police Department. “We are right getting ready to go so that we can be there and keep the community safe.”

La Crosse police are all-hands-on-deck this weekend and hitting the roads.

“Our focus is mainly everything outside the Oktoberfest grounds, and parades,” Miller said.

During Oktoberfest, the police department focuses primarily on the downtown and campus areas.

Some travel by car, while other patrollers travel by foot.

RiverWatch, a group organized by the local universities, patrols Riverside Park every weekend.

“We just keep on going back and forth,” said Adam Schmeiser, the co-director of UWL’s organization.

RiverWatch started years ago to prevent people from drowning after nights downtown.

“There used to be a lot of drownings in the Mississippi,” Schmeiser said.

Most weekends, those volunteers pace the park from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m., and check on people who make their way to the park.

“We also make sure that they are in good enough condition to be able to get home,” Schmeiser said.

This weekend is an even bigger affair. Volunteers will be working longer hours, in a much larger group.

“During Oktoberfest, we’ll see probably close to 100 people come down here,” Schmeiser said.

Police say with big events like this, it is important to look out for yourself and others.

“We ask that the community is working together, kind of like a neighborhood watch,” Miller said.

Working together to keep festgoers safe.

Security on the Oktoberfest grounds is managed by a private company.

Off-ground help will also be available at the Third Street Aid Station at the corner of Third and Pearl streets in La Crosse.

Oktoberfest kicks off this Thursday.