Oktoberfest a big fall party for all

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Trying their hands at the traditional German hammerschlagen, Gail Zirngibl, Joanie Sheriff and Darrell Cooley made some memories at Oktoberfest 2017 on St. Feriole Island.

Gretchen Rickleff, aka the Pretzel lady, served the customary knotted German bread, salted or not, to a couple thousand hungry Oktoberfest-goers last year. (Courier Press file photos)

This year's button

By Correne Martin

You may not think families, senior citizens and those who make a hobby out of consuming alcohol would fit well into one fall party. But they do. It’s Oktoberfest in Prairie du Chien.

The ninth annual revelry will take place next Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Memorial Gardens on St. Feriole Island. For the price of just a dollar button—and a little bit of spending money—people can be entertained with German music, food, beer, contests, crafts and much more. This is the largest event in Prairie du Chien where all the proceeds benefit the Memorial Gardens, according to parks and rec director Mike Ulrich. 

“We had about 3,000 people last year,” he shared, in depicting the size of this growing affair.

At 9 a.m., a disc golf tournament begins. Anyone is welcome to enter and try their hand at the course on the island, which has been restructured for this event, according to Ulrich. 

The whole community can come out in Bavarian dress and get involved, at 10 a.m., when the flourishing Oktoberfest parade starts. The route is from Peoples State Bank, through the downtown, to the island. Line-up will be at 9 a.m. at the bank. The parade is expected to be larger than usual this year, as the Muskego Corvette Club will be bringing about 40 classic cars through. The cars will then be on display along Fourth Street, by the event grounds, after the parade.

The Oktoberfest grounds will officially open at 11 a.m., when the Prairie du Chien High School band will perform both the United States and German national anthems in the musik tent. Local Boy Scouts will then lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

At this time, Crawford County Master Gardener displays will be ready, and about 10 craft vendors will be set up to sell their handmade goods. Kids inflatables and activities, fisch races and hammerschlagen will kick off at 11 a.m. as well. 

Also right away, authentic German food will be for sale in the fernsehen (food) tent and Oktoberfest beverages, including a gluten-free option and apple cider, will be on sale at the Potosi Beer Rolling Bar. 

“Having the rolling bar gives us the ability to spread things out real well in the gardens,” Ulrich noted. “Also, Potosi and Mississippi Meats have gotten together and created a brat exclusively for Oktoberfest. We’ve sampled them and they’re great.”

Also on the menu will be knackwurst, jumbo hot dogs, a new Reuben soup, giant warm pretzels, pumpkin bars, sauerkraut, braised red cabbage and German potato salad. Trusted and talented cook Joe Muelbauer and his assistants always successfully fill the bellies of those in attendance. No one will go hungry. 

Badger fans won’t be disappointed, since the big game will be available to watch on TV inside the food tent, starting at 11 a.m.

By 11:30, music will begin. The crowd-favorite Jim Busta Band is returning to the stage this year and will play until 1 p.m.

At noon, tapping of the official Oktoberfest keg will happen, and don’t be surprised if you’re sprayed with a little bit of beer then too. 

Also at noon, a euchre tournament will begin. Bring your dimes for euchre and loaners. There will be a cash payback to the top five place winners, and door prizes too. Last year, there were over 40 participants. For more information, contact Butch Pedretti, 326-8658.

In addition to the hammerschlagen starting earlier, another contest is slated to entertain fest-goers at 1 p.m. Masskrugstemmen, aka beer stein holding, will challenge the strength of men and women interested. 

From 1:30 to 2 p.m., the La Crosse Oktoberfest Singers will enlighten dancers and listeners with a highly-energetic and amusing time. The Jim Busta Band will follow from 2 to 3:15. 

“These are both good complements to one another,” Ulrich said of the bands.

A canine costume contest will pit the cutest German and Halloween costumes against one another from 3:15 to 3:30 p.m. on the grounds. 

Rounding out the day, the La Crosse Oktoberfest Singers will go on again at 3:30, then the Jim Busta Band will close the event from 4 to 5 p.m.

Major sponsors of this year’s event include Peoples State Bank, Mississippi Meats, Huckleberry’s Restaurant and Nelson True Value. Minor sponsors are Wisconsin Distributors and Potosi Brewery, the Prairie du Chien Parks and Recreation Department, Althoff Television Center, the Eagles Club, Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter, the Kiwanis Club and Crawford County Master Gardeners. 

In all, there are about 50 volunteers who make Oktoberfest happen for the community, tourists and hometown natives. 

If the weather is chilly, Ulrich reminds guests that there will be tents with the sides on them and heaters, to keep people warm. Certainly, dancing might do the trick as well. 

Fest buttons, which feature a seasonal design created by 11-year-old Gabriel Hamann, of Gays Mills, are currently on sale at city hall and Hoffman Hall in Prairie du Chien, or they will be available on the grounds. There will also be Oktoberfest merchandise—including T-shirts, steins, caps and koozies—on sale at this year’s event. 

For more information, contact Ulrich at 326-7207.

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