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Charlie Berens hosts La Crosse Area YMCA’s 140-year birthday



Comedian Charlie Berens was emcee of the 140th birthday for the La Crosse Family YMCA on May 18, 2023 (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

Headbands and legwarmers were back in style at the La Crosse Center on Thursday night, and Charlie Berens was the emcee, as the La Crosse Area YMCA celebrated 140 years of fitness programs and other community activities.

Workout gear from past decades was popular party dress at the La Crosse YMCA birthday party on Thursday (PHOTO: Brad Williams).

The city’s YMCA first opened in 1883, and expanded its local facilities more recently to Onalaska and other parts of the region.

Comedian Charlie Berens was back in La Crosse to serve as emcee for the program. Berens announced some of the prizes to be given away to people attending the party, including a first prize of $2,500.

“You know what you can do with 2,500 dollars, folks?” Berens asked the audience. “You can buy, like, 30,000 Budweisers.”

The program featured highlights of Family YMCA activities that are popular with the organization’s members.

About 400 people attended the festivities with a birthday cake at every table.

YMCA director Bill Soper told the audience about the first meeting held in 1883 to form the La Crosse organization, and quoted the written summary from that meeting: “And so, were taken the first steps towards what we trust will prove a great blessing to our city.”

Soper said the founders would be “very proud” of where the YMCA is today.

Many guests at the YMCA party were dressed in retro workout clothes of different colors and patterns from recent decades, at the suggestion of event organizers.

Cakes with the number 140 on top were served at the Family Y celebration in La Crosse on May 18, 2023 (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

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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