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Turned Leaf Oktoberfest celebration Saturday means a lot for those in recovery

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FILE PHOTO: The Turned Leaf Family Festival in 2018 (PHOTO: @CouleeRecoveryCenter on Facebook)

A pretty simple concept but one nobody really thinks about unless they’ve lived it or are living it.

Obviously, Oktoberfest is back in full swing, celebrating its 60th year in La Crosse, but it’s a festival that — whether unfairly or not — is centered around drinking. The main event is the Tapping of the Golden Keg, after all.

It is also, however, a community celebration or a celebration of community, but not one that everyone can experience — or experience safely. 

The stereotypical Oktoberfest party is really not for someone recovering from alcohol or substance use.

That, however, is what the Turned Leaf Family Festival is all about. In its 36th year, Turned Leaf takes place from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday at Myrick Park.

“It’s that kind of thing we just have to remember,” Cheryl Hancock, executive director at the Coulee Recovery Center, said Wednesday on La Crosse Talk PM, said. “These are people in our community who are seeking recovery. 

“Again, they want to participate in all of the same activities everyone in the community does, so it’s our way of giving it back.”

Hancock also talked a bit about what may have seemed like a fairly insignificant gesture. 

The Oktoberfest Family, a few years ago, made time to stop in at Turned Leaf for the first time ever.

“The Fest Family came in, they did their buttons and they played Oktoberfest music and they talked to people,” Hancock said. “And one of the people who was there told me they really felt like, for the first time in a long time, that they were celebrating Oktoberfest and being a part of Oktoberfest and being respected by the Oktobefest Family, because they took their time out of their busy schedule to come and visit us.”

While it may seem easy to say a person could just go to the Oktoberfest grounds, still have a good time and just choose not to drink, Hancock noted that’s not the case.

“Sometimes seeing someone with an alcoholic drink can be a trigger for them,” she said. “So it just puts more pressure on them.”

Which is why Turned Leaf is so important, she added. 

“To have that environment and culture where people are doing the same things, having the same kind of fun,” Hancock said. “They’re able to do that without that pressure or that trigger from that alcoholic drink.

“Because we still want to celebrate Oktoberfest but, obviously, people that are still in recovery need to find ways to do that without alcohol and substances and so we’re providing that opportunity Saturday.”

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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