One year before the ’72 presidential election, South Dakota Senator George McGovern visited La Crosse during Oktoberfest. At the time, McGovern was one of several Democrats challenging Republican President Richard Nixon for re-election. But McGovern would become his party’s nominee the following summer. McGovern toured the festgrounds for about 20 minutes, and gave a campaign button to the wife of La Crosse Mayor Peter Gilbertson.
La Crosse Festivals director Jerry Miller said more festgoers than ever were participating in some of the traditional Oktoberfest events in ’71, such as horseshoe pitching and square dancing. Arrests were down from the year before, but the Holiday Inn on the pike reported its worst damages ever for an Oktoberfest.
New TV shows that fall included detective shows “Columbo” and “McMillan and Wife,” the Sandy Duncan sitcom “Funny Face,” and a variety show called “Rollin’ on the River,” with Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Sonny and Cher had a hit TV variety show that year. So did Flip Wilson, while Carol Burnett and Dean Martin were still on their long-running shows in 1971, yesterday in La Crosse.