Public warms up to alcohol-free Oktoberfest grounds

A major change to the Oktoberfest grounds is receiving a thumbs up from many people in the community.

It’s the first year the north side grounds, called Festplatz, are alcohol free and for the most part the community seems to be thankful for the new opportunities it provides for families.

Oktoberfest organizers said an alcohol-free fest ground is a way to open up the celebration to everyone in our community.

There’s no button entrance fee and activities at the north side fest grounds in La Crosse are geared toward families.

The idea is to give people an opportunity to take in Oktoberfest as a family without having to worry about navigating a party atmosphere.

While change is not always welcomed by everyone, organizers said they’re confident many people in the community are excited about the change.


“I had a handful of people directly come up and say they appreciated the change. Typically you don’t hear anything unless it’s negative. Normally you only hear about it when its negative, so for someone to make an effort to come forward and say something positive I think reflects quite a bit as far as the community is concerned,” said Oktoberfest executive director Tina Severson.

Onalaska resident Bette Bilskemper has been going to Oktoberfest for years.

She said knowing the north side grounds are alcohol-free gives her peace of mind when bringing her granddaughters along.

While she’s happy about the change, she admits not everyone she talked to about it seemed to like the idea right away.

“When we first heard about it I talked with some people who were pretty negative about it but I think everybody is changing their minds about it. I guess it’s something you don’t need especially when you want to come down with your family,” said Bilskemper.

Severson said they plan on keeping the north side grounds alcohol-free next year as well.

She said they’ll continue to build on the events and activities they offered this year to provide more fun opportunities for families.

To make the north side grounds fit in Oktoberfest’s budget, many of the events are sponsored by organizations in the community.