Photo Series: Lederho-down: Oktoberfest at UWL


Photo taken by Henry Anderson.

Henry Anderson, Photojournalist

The city of La Crosse is filled with people of numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Besides the French name of the city, one of the most represented groups of people here in La Crosse is the Germans. Every year, at the end of September, a three-day festival is held where everybody can celebrate the German heritage of the city. That festival is Oktoberfest.

With its festival grounds located a little bit north of the downtown area, Oktoberfest has numerous events tied with it that allow people to become fully immersed in the festivities. Along with events like the lederhosen games and the tapping of the golden keg, which exists inside of the festival grounds, parades, carnivals, and races occur outside of the festival grounds for the whole town to partake in.

Everyone’s participation in Oktoberfest is important to keeping the tradition alive. If the tradition of Oktoberfest isn’t celebrated with younger generations, it will become less and less popular, and potentially disappear. A large group that makes up some of the younger generations that celebrate Oktoberfest are students from the surrounding colleges, including the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

“Something that is really important to the La Crosse community is the three campuses we have here,” said Hannah Skibba Amundson, a marketing event coordinator for Oktoberfest. Amundson continued, “Oktoberfest does so much good for the community with numerous activities in entertainment, heritage, and tradition.”

“So, I really look forward to bridging the gap between the students and the festival by bringing students into different volunteer opportunities, the traditions that we have had with Oktoberfest over 61 years, and show them how special Oktoberfest is and how they can contribute to that,” said Amundson.

While celebrating Oktoberfest is available for students to celebrate at the festival grounds, most UWL students celebrate Oktoberfest differently. One thing that some students do is spend their Oktoberfest walking around state street near campus attending various lawn parties.

One student that was spending their time on state street was Jenna Emons. Emons, an environmental studies major, said “I am at my older cousin’s house right now and I am just happy to be here.” Emons continued, “I went to the parade this morning [Oct. 1st]. It’s really just an all-day party and I am here for it.”

Another person enjoying the parties on and around State street was Zach, a business major at UWL. “Oktoberfest has been a blast,” said Zach. He continued, “I have been hanging with friends and people I haven’t seen in a while coming who are down from different cities. Overall, it has just been a blast.”

Both Emons and Zach, along with other students, attend the parties and other events during Oktoberfest at UWL in order to be immersed in the social structures on campus. Getting involved socially on campus is an important aspect of some people’s college experience. When asked if the social aspects of school affected their choice of coming to UWL, Emons said, “I really didn’t. But now that I am here, I am definitely considering it a lot more and how active the party life is.” Emons continued, “It has definitely added to the college experience.”

A facet of the parties on state street during Oktoberfest is usually a game of beer darts. In beer darts, players sit in a circle, with a can of, usually, beer at their feet. Each player around the circle takes turns throwing a metal dart at each other’s cans until someone’s can is pierced by the dart. Upon this happening, that person has to finish their drink, throw the can in the middle of the circle, and then grab another.

At one of these beer dart circles was a group of alumni who graduated from UWL in 2021, Noah Fischer and his friend Nicole. Both having graduated with degrees in therapeutic recreation, Fischer and Nicole, when asked about the social aspects of being at UWL and their views on Oktoberfest, they said this:

“I didn’t even know [Oktoberfest] was a thing until I started going here,” said Nicole. Nicole continued, “But after experiencing it, I thought it was the best thing ever and I always invited people to come along.” Lastly, Fischer said, “Oktoberfest was not something that drew me to UWL, but it is something that kept me coming back.”