Oktoberfest celebrates La Crosse’s German heritage

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) — The golden barrel has been tapped, and the 60th anniversary of Oktoberfest is in full swing.

It’s a celebration that dates back to Munich, Germany in the early 1800s, a legacy that is now part of the fabric of La Crosse.

“Since the fall of 1961, Oktoberfest has had the privilege of sharing its pageantry and tradition with the town of La Crosse,” said Oktoberfest 2021 President Kelly Wilde. “In return, the city of La Crosse has shared its camaraderie and brotherhood with the world through the spirit of Gemutlichkeit.”

The history of La Crosse Oktoberfest begins in the late 1950s when community leaders wanted to provide a positive experience during a time of struggle.

“La Crosse was suffering, we lost some big manufacturers, things just didn’t look so positive,” said 2017 Festmaster Brian Rude. “So that they [community leaders] decided we needed a community festival, and with a brewery in town and German heritage in La Crosse, it was natural.

Oktoberfest has grown year after year since its inception, becoming an event that attracts attendees from across the country.

“Here on the festival grounds, I’ve spoken to people from Washington State, Ohio, Idaho, and they’re celebrating that legacy here,” Rude said.

Rude thinks there is a common misconception about Oktoberfest, saying the focus should be on the German tradition surrounding the festival.

“People say it’s about the drink, it’s not, it’s about the Gemutlichkeit, which is the camaraderie, that drives Oktoberfest,” Rude said.

As Oktoberfest continues through the weekend, the overall message from Wilde and the festival organizers remains the same.

“It is your responsibility, it is your responsibility to keep not only yourself but also your neighbors safe and healthy,” Wilde insisted.

Copyright 2021 WEAU. All rights reserved.