WATCH NOW: Oktoberfest Maple Leaf Parade Returns to Enthusiastic Crowds | Local News

After a hiatus in 2020, the annual Maple Leaf Parade returned to the streets of La Crosse on Saturday morning, drawing thousands of spectators eager to resume the party.

Oktoberfest, La Crosse’s first festival, turned 60 this week, returning after a pandemic-related cancellation last fall. This year’s Maple Leaf Parade featured approximately 80 exhibits, with Parade Marshal Samantha Strong seated in a horse-drawn carriage, Miss La Crosse-Oktoberfest Maddie Adickes on the Royalty Float and Special Fester Rylee Beahm waving to the crowd.

Musical exhibits included the West Salem Marching Panthers, the Tri-State Accordion Club, and the UWL Screaming Eagles Marching Band, and the military were represented by the American Vets from Vietnam and the American Vets from Wisconsin Lao. The La Crosse Democratic Party and La Crosse Republican Party were in the spotlight, as were local businesses such as Festival Foods and Great River Harley-Davidson.

Worldwide Global International Inc. brought some humor to the procession as “Two Guys with a Banner! “; Mitch Reynolds celebrated his first Oktoberfest as mayor, accompanied by representatives from the sister cities of La Crosse.

As a precautionary measure related to the pandemic, marchers and floats in the parade were discouraged from throwing candy or souvenirs, and spectators were encouraged to hide and walk away. However, the sidewalks were crowded and few face coverings were used.

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While still in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, the parade looked a lot like years gone by, with children sitting on the curb or dancing to the music, adults toasting drinks and people of all ages dressed in lederhosen, themed T-shirts, zipline hats and pretzel jewelry.

Valerie Eckblad of Forest Lake, Minn., Donned a dirndl for her first time at La Crosse. Striking frequently in other places, she and her friend Amy Lee of Brighton, Minnesota were disappointed with an Oktoberfest held in their home country. While Lee thought the incarnation of the Coulee region looked “a little bit crazy,” the duo decided to make it a weekend and were pleasantly surprised.

“I love that it’s welcome for families and kids, and all of the vendors have been so nice, especially to us newbies,” Lee said. “You can’t ask for better weather. Autumn, beer – I’m looking forward to a really good kid. “

“And a pretzel,” Eckblad added.

Just as a cold brew and a salty snack are hallmarks of Oktoberfest, floral wreaths adorn the heads of many women. Behind many of these headdresses is Barb Clark, a resident of La Crosse since 1972.

Clark has only missed a few Oktoberfest celebrations over the decades, and for 30 years has been handcrafting the wreaths worn by royalty and festival officials. Clark makes around 100 headdresses a year, exploring new variations on a traditional favorite. This year, she fashioned velvet flowers.

“After all these years, I like a really good challenge,” says Clark.

Clark says she has been invited to the Holiday Masters Ball on several occasions, but still politely refuses, saying, “Cinderella is not going to the ball.” Clark doesn’t even wear his designs, letting others take center stage in his famous floral wreaths.

Clark’s daughter Aubrey grew up going to the Maple Leaf Parade with her mother, and after moving to Alaska for about 15 years, she made the trip back to Wisconsin each fall to join. to the festivities. It is a tradition that the family loved then and today, which attracts people of all generations and from all walks of life.

Once a year Clark says, “Everyone’s German for a week. “

Emily Pyrek can be reached at [email protected]

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