When it comes to Oktoberfest, Korey Ortel knows where to splurge and where to save.
Ortel, 24, of Wausau got his creative juices flowing to keep the bubbles going at Saturday morning’s Maple Leaf Parade, fashioning an impressive pair of Lederhosen out of cropped and cuffed corduroy pants, old suspenders and knee high dress socks, which he paired with a bubbly glass of champagne and a round of “beer-mosas.”
“The outfit is Goodwill,” said Ortel, a large soft pretzel dangling from a chain around his neck. “We baked the pretzels at home.”
Creativity, camaraderie and, of course, candy were in high supply at the 57th annual parade, which drew an estimated 100,000 bystanders and over 120 floats and performing groups. While the lineup consisted mainly of traditional favorites — marching bands, pageant floats and Oktoberfest royalty — the sidelines were packed with crafty festers, from a woman in a red dress and apron re-purposed as a dirndl to backpacks made from beer cases and rope straps.
Chris Haesig, 26, of La Crosse donned a headband with glued on leaves, and strapped a spigot box of wine on his back for convenient refills. Haesig has been a devoted fester, along with best friend Amanda Lanzel, 33, of Minneapolis, for the past four years.
“I love that you can play beer pong eight feet away and it’s PC,” said Haesig, who formerly worked at City Brewery and painted the Golden Kegs for four years. “We’ve got the Badger game pumping back there (in their car). The weather is beautiful. We both love the marching bands.”
“It’s fun to dress up, our friends are here,” Lanzel said. “You really couldn’t ask for a better day.”
The candy, the costumes and a parading Chihuahua were the highlights for Deja Burris, 8, of La Crosse, who was confused by the lederhosen but delighted by WAFER’s peas and carrot people.
Burris and mom Deb Dobrunz arrived late for the parade, but found a premiere spot on the curb thanks some generous festers who cleared them a space.
“Everybody is so thoughtful of each other and friendly,” Doburnz said. “There’s really a sense of the community coming together.”
The parade is a tradition for Robert and Diane Marcou of La Crosse and son David, 54, of Madison. The family has been planting their lawn chairs on Second Street since David was 6 six months old.
“It’s like going back to old times,” David said. “You remember how it used to be.”
Nick Barns, 25, of La Crosse was a fest baby himself.
“I’ve been coming here since I was this young,” he said, holding his hand six inches above the ground. “It’s kind of like a Thanksgiving for us. (At the parade) everything is interesting and everything is crazy.”
What was perhaps the most interesting aspect of the parade occurred at the start, when a bald eagle flew overhead as the Vietnam Veterans of America Color Guard passed by the 2nd St. Hair Gallery. The symbolic moment stuck with many in the crowd.
“It was amazing timing,” remarked Matt Tukua, 33, of La Crosse. “It was kind of a beautiful moment.”