Out of doors pursuits main native tourism comeback in La Crosse space | Native


Cyclists exit 1.2km tunnel # 3 along the Elroy-Sparta State Trail. As the weather warms and COVID-19 restrictions lift, people are flocking to the Coulee area for outdoor activities.

Milt and Rose Leis, owners of Speed’s Bicycle Shop in Sparta, saw bike sales spike after COVID-19 sent people looking for outdoor activities.

2019 Maple Leaf Parade

2008 Festival master Mike Weissenberger welcomes a young parade visitor to the Maple Leaf Parade 2019 as part of the Oktoberfest in La Crosse. The event is expected to return in 2021 after a year of absence

National truck and tractor pull into Tomah

After a year-long absence, the Budweiser Dairyland Super National Truck and Tractor Pull will return to the Recreation Park in Tomah from June 24th to 26th.

Periodically, a buzzer sounds in the office of the Sparta Chamber of Commerce with someone who wants to buy a bike path pass.

“The door buzzes every few minutes,” said Heidi Prestwood, manager of the Sparta Chamber. “We’re a busy office.”

The Sparta Chamber office was one of the few places in Wisconsin that actually saw a surge in visitor numbers during an otherwise dismal 2020 tourism season kneeled by COVID-19. As more people get vaccinated and the pandemic subsides, local leaders are optimistic that the rest of the tourism industry will ride bicycles on the path to economic recovery.

AJ Frels, executive director of Explore La Crosse, said the first numbers are encouraging.

“We’re seeing things go faster than expected,” said Frels. “People are tired of being pent up.”

Frels said tourism had great success everywhere last year. Virtually every major gathering in the La Crosse area has been canceled, including River Fest in summer, Oktoberfest in fall, and the annual Country Boom concert, which attracts nationally recognized musicians.

La Crosse County’s tourism spending decreased from $ 281 million in 2019 to $ 196 million in 2020, a decrease of 30%.

“Every tourist destination around the world has been affected,” said Frels. “The goals based on congresses, meetings and festivals were really affected.”