LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – From show choirs to animal rescues — along with thousands of hotel stays — La Crosse’s Oktoberfest has it covered. They and many others benefit from the $26 million Oktoberfest pumps into the La Crosse area economy.
Patti Berra, 2023 Oktoberfest president, says she and others who work behind the scenes of Oktoberfest easily see its impressive community impact. The survey, she says, quantifies the many ways the fest positively influences the area.
“We’re very proud to provide more than $43,000 in donations to local extracurricular groups and service organizations, along with helping to bring in tax dollars to our community that help fund projects local residents benefit from,” says Berra. “We’re also pleased to help provide traffic to local restaurants and fill hotels so the La Crosse community can enjoy them year-round.”
The study was conducted by the UW-Whitewater Fiscal & Economic Research Center during last fall’s festival. Student researchers distributed the survey to Oktoberfest attendees, collecting more than 470 responses representing more than 2,500 festgoers. The $26 million estimated impact is up from $15 million in a previous study conducted in 2014.
One of the many area non-profits that is reimbursed for offering volunteers during the festival is the La Crosse Logan Show Choir Parents Organization. Parents from the group assist with bartending duties on the fest grounds and students help clean up after the Maple Leaf Parade. For the parents, it’s a strategic way to help them reach annual fundraising goals.
“We appreciate the opportunity to volunteer to raise funds for our group,” says Chris Shilling, president of the organization. “If it wasn’t available, we would need to find other funding sources to replace what we receive from Oktoberfest.”
Among the other organizations benefitting from providing volunteers during the fest are: Holy Trinity Parish, UW-La Crosse Screaming Eagles, La Crescent Animal Rescue, Aptiv Foundation, Shelby Youth Baseball, WI Rush Soccer, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boy Scouts and others.
Oktoberfest’s Gemulichkeit Foundation also provides nine $1,000 in scholarships to local high school seniors from Aquinas, Bangor, La Crosse Central, La Crosse Logan, La Crescent, Holmen, Onalaska, Onalaska Luther and West Salem high schools, along with $1,000 to the winner of the Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest Scholarship Program.
A.J. Frels, executive director of Explore La Crosse, says Oktoberfest is the region’s largest festival event each year. And he says the economic impact extends beyond the three days of the fest.
“Undoubtedly, when someone visits the La Crosse Region for Oktoberfest, it introduces them to the area,” he says. “We see it time and time again, once they experience what the La Crosse Region has to offer, they come back to enjoy the area.”
The study found that the annual festival impacts the community much more than just financially. Around 98% of festgoers say they would recommend Oktoberfest to friends and family members.
“Oktoberfest works to spread Gemulichkeit, friendliness and good cheer in our community and beyond year-round,” says Berra. “It’s so rewarding to hear about the strong family traditions and memories family and friends are creating through Oktoberfest.”
Also, 90% of respondents feel Oktoberfest reflects a positive community image, while 82% say it promotes German heritage and culture in the region. Berra says that extends beyond the four days of the fest, and La Crosse.
“We can see it in the smiling faces among people in other communities while our Royal Family and Grenadiers participate in parades around the region to promote La Crosse,” she says.
Berra says it’s a community-wide effort — from volunteers to financial sponsors — that keeps Oktoberfest going and successful. “We are grateful to our many community partners who help us keep this tradition alive and allow us to give back to the greater La Crosse area every year,” she says.
[ Oktoberfest_6380.jpg ] – A recent economic impact survey found that La Crosse’s Oktoberfest pumps $26 million into the La Crosse area economy. It’s not only area businesses benefitting, non-profits from show choirs to animal rescues benefit by providing volunteers during the festival.
[ Oktoberfest_6833.jpg ] – A recent survey of Oktoberfest attendees found that 90% of them feel Oktoberfest reflects a positive community image, while 82% say it promotes German heritage and culture in the region. “Oktoberfest works to spread Gemulichkeit, friendliness and good cheer in our community and beyond year-round,” says Patti Berra, 2023 Oktoberfest president