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Yesterday in La Crosse

A plan to end the Coon Creek riots, 29 years ago

Brad Williams



In 1991, La Crosse got unwanted national publicity when a mob on the street overturned a city police car and set it on fire.  It happened during the weekend of the Coon Creek Canoe Races in Coon Valley.  For three years, people attending the races then went to La Crosse to drink on 3rd Street, and then confront cops trying to keep the peace.  In August of ’91, organizers of the Coon Creek event said they would try shortening the two-day festival to just one day in 1992, to reduce the chance of rioting.  It didn’t work: crowds still stopped downtown traffic in ’92, and challenged police, who responded with tear gas.  

A corporate spelling bee was being started in ’91, to mark International Literacy Day, the second Sunday in September.  Local employers were invited to form three-person teams who would compete in the bee at Valley View Mall.  The corporate bee in La Crosse continued for several more years after that.  

An outdoor concert featuring “Stars of Rock ‘N Roll” drew a summertime crowd at the Trempealeau Hotel.  Topping the bill were Tiny Tim, Bobby “Boris” Pickett, and Micky Dolenz of the Monkees.  Hey, hey, they’re in Trempealeau, 1991, 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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