Caution tape blew in the wind Wednesday, signaling the approach of Oktoberfest and an ongoing clash between parade diehards and city officials.
The tape, spread across Copeland Park, road medians and public boulevards, is used by many enthusiasts to reserve spots for Saturday’s Maple Leaf Parade, expected to draw about 100,000 people.
But the tape is a no-no, and just one example of pre-Oktoberfest behavior city officials are trying to prevent in the days leading up to the fest.
“There’s clearly violations occurring already,” said Robert Haines, La Crosse’s assistant public works director.
Starting today, city staff will patrol the route to remove lawn chairs and other obstructions if they are within the city’s right-of-way.
“If it’s unattended, the city might take it,” Haines said. “It’s the same as debris.”
People waiting for the parade will be asked to leave. Law breakers risk forfeiting their property and can be fined $88.80 plus removal costs.
City staff will also tour the parks, said Jay Odegaard, La Crosse Parks and Recreation supervisor.
“We’ll be going through and just making sure there aren’t individuals ... in areas that they shouldn’t be,” Odegaard said. “That they’re not leaving things unattended.”
Parade rules depend on the department.
Most roads, sidewalks and boulevards are regulated by La Crosse public works, while Copeland Park and a few other spots along the parade route are governed by the parks department.
Until midnight before the parade, the city forbids any obstruction — including lawn chairs and other furniture — on sidewalks and boulevards.
“If it’s between the sidewalk and the street, then it’s surely in violation,” Haines said. “Behind the sidewalk, you’re probably OK.”
Except for parks, where the rules are slightly different.
The parks open at 6 a.m. and close at 10:30 p.m., and staying overnight isn’t allowed.
Parade goers can bring furniture to the park, but it can’t stay overnight, and it has to be packed away immediately after the parade.
Caution tape, signs and banners are forbidden, said Odegaard.
“Anything that would be hung up is not allowed,” Odegaard said.
Finding a good spot for the parade can be competitive, La Crosse resident Jane Binnebose said.
She and her husband have been coming to the parade since 1979. The couple staked out a section of the park Wednesday for about 40 to 50 extended family members, with plans to monitor the spot in rotating shifts.
“It’s a family event,” she said. “It’s something to look forward to year to year.”