Traditional German fun Oct. 21 at Oktoberfest

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Dan Winkleski is the official Festmaster of Oktoberfest this year. He will welcome fun-seekers at the 2017 event, which has been growing in Prairie du Chien since its inception several years ago. The festivities kick off Saturday, Oct. 21, at 10 a.m., with a parade downtown, and then continue at the St. Feriole Island Memorial Gardens until 5 p.m. (Courier Press file photo)

By Correne Martin

Over 3,000 merrymakers are expected to be in Prairie du Chien for Oktoberfest this year. The free and family-friendly day of celebration continues to expand and is once again poised to offer more than “three cheers” for everyone.

Oktoberfest 2017 will take place Saturday, Oct. 21, at the St. Feriole Island Memorial Gardens, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The festivities will kick off with a parade at 10 a.m., beginning at People’s State Bank downtown and following a route to the Oktoberfest grounds. To join the parade entries, participants can line up near the bank at 9 a.m.
This year’s Festmaster is Dan Winkleski, dedicated Oktoberfest volunteer and musician. He will appear in the parade alongside some of the day’s famed musical guests and the most festive local businesses and organizations, children and pets. To still enter, contact Suzette Cunningham at (608) 412-1130.

“There are already 25 parade entries,” Parks and Recreation Director Mike Ulrich said, “but there’s still room to participate.”

Following the parade, a disc golf tournament will start at 10 a.m. This competition is sponsored by the Prairie du Chien Rotary Club, and all ages and skill levels are encouraged to try their hands at flying some discs.

The affair on the official Oktoberfest grounds will get underway when the Prairie du Chien High School band plays the national anthem of both the USA and Germany. This will happen at 11 a.m. The Boy Scouts will also say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Then, excitement will fill the gardens. The Crawford County Master Gardeners’ fall/Halloween displays and an arts and craft fair featuring a dozen vendors will open. Kids’ inflatables, which are new this year thanks to the Kiwanis Club, and children’s activities will also begin at that time. “Fisch” races, involving minnows, will start as well and are sure to be something unique attracting many of the fest-goers.

“We’re happy to bring some new activities to the table. Kids events have largely increased from past years,” Ulrich noted.

Authentic German food will be available for purchase in the larger-than-usual, food tent, sponsored by Huckleberry’s Restaurant. Brats, German knackwurst and a limited amount of sauerbraten dinners are on the menu, along with some other tasty dishes like pretzels.

“We typically sell everything out, so if your mouth is watering, eat early,” Ulrich said.

Oktoberfest beverages will also be sold at the Potosi Rolling Bar. A large variety of Potosi products as well as other German products, hard ciders and wine coolers will be served to those 21 and older. There will also be Potosi rootbeer for the young and young at heart.

Also at 11 a.m., hammerschlagen begins, sponsored by Nelson True Value. This activity is open to all ages and is a 20th century-style nail driving competition. Participants can try their hand at hammering nails into a stump. The last nail standing on the log wins.

Fall in Wisconsin, of course, is synonymous with Badger football, and the big game will be on in the food tent, for fans to enjoy, thanks to Althof’s Television Center.

A range of ethnic music will liven up the party and get underway at 11:30 a.m. in its very own musik tent, continuing until the end of the fest around 5 p.m. New this year, attendees wishing to listen to the music must enter the musik tent and, to do so, they must pay $1 for an official Oktoberfest button, designed by 14-year-old Paige Schneider, of Prairie du Chien. There are only 1,000 buttons available, according to Ulrich. But once they’re gone, people can still get into the tent for $1. They just won’t receive a button.

Headlining the festival will be famed polka TV show host, Mollie B, with her dad’s band, the Jim Busta Band and Karl. They will play from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2 to 3:15 p.m. and 4 to 5 p.m., singing, dancing, playing multiple instruments and interacting with the crowd. The La Crosse Oktoberfest Singers will also be at this year’s fest. This fun-loving group of 20 men will only add to the festive atmosphere with their repertoire of old and new German songs performed in both native language and English.

Rounding out the afternoon, masskrugstemmen, aka the beer stein holding contest, sponsored by Potosi Brewery and Wisconsin Distributors, will start at 1 p.m. Test your strength in holding a full, one-liter stein in front of your body with a straight arm. Men and women are welcome to participate. Winners will be declared once the last competitor is standing.

Finally, a canine costume contest, hosted by Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter, will take place at 3:15 p.m. Bring your costumed dog for a chance to be voted the best. All money used in voting will benefit the animal shelter.
During Oktoberfest, the street adjacent to the gardens will be closed all day long and vendors will be located along there.

“The whole park will be utilized more based on how we’ve stretched everything out,” Ulrich added. “Oktoberfest is growing and the fact that we’ve got Mollie B coming and the La Crosse Oktoberfest Singers, and we have sponsors for basically every event, this is sure to be the best we’ve ever had.”

Don’t miss the traditional German spirit 3,000 expect to enjoy next weekend at Oktoberfest.

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