La Crosse, WI (WXOW) Oktoberfest attracts tens of thousands of people to La Crosse.
The Maple Leaf Parade alone brings an estimated 100 thousand people to the city; doubling its population.
That means a lot of people come from out of town. We talked with some people at the Opening Day Ceremony to find out where they came from and why.
He is easy to spot in a crowd. With his distinctive hat, Daniel St.-Vincent certainly stands out. Daniel and his wife Jocelyn are among the international visitors to La Crosse for Oktoberfest. They are the official Voyageurs from the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg, Canada.
Each year that festival sends a delegation on the ten hour drive to La Crosse.
According to Daniel, "Our festival is very cultural, its in the wintertime, its very cold. So that's why its different. But the music is similar, even the vibe of the people. The party atmosphere is very similar to ours."
Oktoberfest also attracts people from across the United States. Alyssa Rushton made the trip from New Orleans to visit her brother. Alyssa said, "My brother goes to school up here so I got off work and decided to come up."
Its Dustin Snyder's first Oktoberfest experience. He made the trip from South Dakota. "This is my first time seeing people wearing what they're wearing," he said. "So I thought it was pretty cool."
Jackie Lewicki and her boyfriend Kevin Poulson live in Racine and make Oktoberfest a tradition. Jackie said, "I went to college in La Crosse at the UWL. Met some good lifelong friends and have been coming every year since I turned 21, 13 years ago."
Kevin even brought his brother along from Oak Creek. Jim said, "The tapping of the golden keg , that's the coolest thing I've ever seen. An entire group of people cheering for one guy tapping a gold painted keg. Its fantastic."
But if you measure distance traveled in years rather than miles, you won't find anyone here who traveled farther than Walt Hammond. Walt served as Festmaster in 1972, making him the oldest living Festmaster. He's seen many changes.
Walt said, "The food vendors are getting bigger and the carnival s getting better. Its just a grand thing."
While Oktoberfest has changed over the decades. Its spirit has not. And the next generation will keep that spirit going strong.
Walt Hammond is 89 years old. He turns 90 in February.
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