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La Crosse Oktoberfest legend Karl Friedline passes away at 94

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Karl Friedline waves his cane to the crowd at the tapping of the golden keg.

An Oktoberfest and La Crosse legend has died.

Karl Friedline, perhaps best known for singing the German national anthem to kickoff La Crosse’s Oktoberfest celebration, died Thursday at his home in Onalaska. He was 94.

Friedline was Oktoberfest’s most senior Festmaster. He held that title in 1991.

Last September, WIZM reminisced With Friedline and friends before he took the stage to sing again — one last time.

“It’s something, I was born to do,” Friedline said at the time.

Karl Friedline rides in the 2022 Oktoberfest parade.

Friedline wasn’t sure if he was going to sing at last year’s Oktoberfest but as he started practicing, Marty Frank, who helps sing the Anthem, told WIZM, the veteran was all in.

“ Him getting prepped … you can see him getting younger,” Frank said. “We practiced on Labor Day and he’s like, ‘I don’t know if I can do it.’ The next day he was practicing every day and walking so that he could be in shape to be able to sing the song at the Festmasters Ball and at the tapping.”

Chuck Roth, the 2015 Festmaster, talked about Friedline singing in front of thousands of people at the 2022 Oktoberfest.

“ When he got done, the crowd chanted, ‘Karl, Karl, Karl,’” Roth said. “And it was a very special time for Karl. It was a special time for all of us that know and love Karl, and brought a tear to Karl’s eyes, and goosebumps to many of us that were watching from the crowd.”

Frank added to how unforgettable a time it was with Friedline.

“The mic drop he did last year,” Frank said before the 2023 Oktoberfest, “when he said, ‘I’ll see you next year.’ I’m like, that was really cool because he had such a great day and he wants to come back and do it again.”

Friedline worked for many years at Western Tech, as a media instructor and coordinated many televised candidate debates during local elections.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Chris Schneider

    June 2, 2024 at 10:34 am

    Karl was a wonderful part of our community especially Oktoberfest.
    God bless your family, Karl.

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