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Troubled times for Oktoberfest, 53 years ago

Brad Williams



Just before the 1966 Oktoberfest in La Crosse, a cartoon in the Tribune asked “How’s this for an image?” The cartoon promoted the six-year-old festival as a time for fun, joviality, friendship, and non-violence. A near-riot during fest weekend led to almost 200 arrests, and to the long-standing ordinance against public consumption of alcohol.

Violent acts dominated news in 1966, with a mass shooting at the University of Texas, the murders of eight student nurses in Chicago, and the slaying of Valerie Percy, the 21-year-old daughter of future Illinois Sen. Charles Percy. The Percy murder occurred the same week that CBS was scheduled to air the movie “Psycho,” but the film was cancelled, and CBS never did show “Psycho.” Valerie Percy’s killer has never been caught.

That fall, TV watchers were introduced to the Monkees, Marlo Thomas as “That Girl,” and to Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock on “Star Trek,” yesterday in La Crosse.