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Yesterday in La Crosse

Why are streets blocked off during Oktoberfest? Mainly because of Coon Creek

Brad Williams



In 1991, for the third spring in a row, La Crosse police had to deal with visitors trying to make trouble downtown during the weekend of the Coon Creek canoe races.  When a crowd of about two thousand people wouldn’t break up after bar time, officers brought out batons and tear gas.  Dozens of people were arrested, and one group tipped over a police squad car and set it on fire.  Riots broke out again the following April, again on Coon Creek weekend. When Ed Kondracki became police chief, he started the street shutdown during Oktoberfest. Within a few years, the Coon Creek festival and the riots came to an end.

During early years of Oktoberfest, well-known entertainers who performed at the festival included Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Guy Lombardo, and the comedy team of Marty Allen and Steve Rossi, yesterday in La Crosse.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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