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La Crosse leaders urge students not to gather on what would have been Oktoberfest weekend

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 6:16 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -

The ‘Golden Keg' at La Crosse’s Oktoberfest was supposed to be tapped Friday morning, however, the fest is canceled due to the pandemic.

With some people still planning to celebrate at bars all weekend long, several organizations are joining forces to urge a certain age group to stay home instead.

Oktoberfest USA is La Crosse’s largest event bringing in over $15 million annually, according to a UW-Whitewater study.

While official events are canceled, some are worried students still plan to head to bars this weekend.

As a result, all three colleges, the two health systems, La Crosse County Health Department and others partnered to create a video message.

“Rates are skyrocketing here in La Crosse and it’s really that 20-29 year old population” said Dr. Joseph Poterucha of Mayo Clinic in the video. “We have to do something about this. Things are going to get shut down-- businesses, school, we are looking at possibly you going back home.”

Covid cases continue to increase with La Crosse County reporting more than 2,800 cases overall Thursday.

Dr. Poterucha reminds students: the choices you make can impact others.

“It says a lot about you as a person. It says a lot about your interests,” Poterucha added. “It says a lot about who we are as young people in La Crosse. We can step it up. We can do this.”

UWL’s Lisa Klein was instrumental in bringing community partners together.

“It’s important for people to see themselves in the message, so that they know that their peers are taking this seriously,” said Klein, the UWL community engagement coordinator.

With that in mind, the video included Viterbo student leaders and Cate Wiza, the UWL Student Association president.

While Wiza will be staying home this weekend, she admits it isn’t easy.

“I won’t lie to you, it is disappointing,” Wiza said. “I would love to hangout with my large group of friends, but the fact is that there is a problem in La Crosse and it is stemming from the activities that college students are choosing to participate in.”

The UWL senior also warns that if students don’t listen, classes may not be able to return in-person October 5.

Overall, the university hopes the video makes the main message clear.

“Don’t gather," Klein stressed. All of us have heard it for months-- wash your hands, wear a mask, don’t gather."

The La Crosse Police Department who also partnered with the video, says they’ll have extra officers on-duty this weekend.

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