The Economic Geography of Regional Festivals

By Gerlach, Jerry | Focus, Summer 1994 | Go to article overview

The Economic Geography of Regional Festivals

Gerlach, Jerry, Focus

Beer Drinking and Small Town Mississippi River Festivals

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, ethnic and city festivals became very popular in the U.S. The original goal of these festivals was either to stress the uniqueness of an area's ethnic makeup or of its economic traditions. Local pride was the prime stated emphasis of the festival. Examples include the Maifest, October-fest, Czech Days, Honey Days, William Tell Fest, Contraband Days, and so on. The aim was to promote an area by introducing visitors to the local customs, food and dance.

The festival's potential as a moneymaker for the area was recognized very quickly. Profits from festivals could be used to finance a variety of civic, humanitarian, or other causes. Almost all groups share a common desire to celebrate at these festivals, and they primarily use beer as the intoxicant of choice. In some areas of the country, the moneymaking at many festivals shifted, over time, to emphasize alcohol, primarily beer. Beer could be sold at inflated prices by civic groups and the money could be used to defray the cost of money-losing activities at the event. The beer came to be sold in beer gardens - a tent, or fenced-in pavilion.

In the early stages of these festivals, beer was sold in nearby taverns as well. Control of beer sales was loose; the festivals could not control the crowds they attracted and were forced to move the beer sales to areas that could be more easily policed. Even so, control became a problem. This should have led communities to make the obvious decision and drop alcohol sales from such events. Greed, however, has overruled common sense in most cases. Beer sales continue and so do the resultant behavioral problems.

The purpose of this article is to examine behavior at small town festivals on both sides of the Mississippi River border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. By selecting this area, we can compare differences in legal approaches to alcohol control. In Wisconsin, there has been a long history of lessened alcohol beverage control, associated with the largely German origin of the population. Wisconsin had a law allowing 18-year-olds to drink beer long before they were able to do so in Minnesota and other states. Wisconsin has much lower taxes on beer and alcohol than does Minnesota; it is less of a sin to imbibe in Wisconsin than across the state border. In Wisconsin, reduced-alcohol (3.2%) beer is not sold. So-called real beer and alcohol can be sold to off-premises customers on Sundays, in Wisconsin.

Minnesota's population is influenced by its Scandinavian origins. Scandinavian society has never placed the emphasis on drink found among Germans, and this remains true today in the countries of origin as well as among their Americanized relatives in the U.S.A.'s upper midwest. Based on these cultural differences, I hypothesized that community festivals would be more closely regulated for their alcohol consumption on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi, and that Wisconsin festival beer-drinking would be not only less regulated but also have more of the problems that come from large numbers of non-residents coming to celebrate. After all, according to tourism experts Mathieson and Wall, "hedonistic behavior is commonplace when people leave home" - people go away from home in order to behave in a less-inhibited fashion. The festivals studied include those from both sides of the Mississippi, with an emphasis on those near the writer's home in Winona, Minnesota.

The operation of the festivals

On both sides of the river, the festivals are operated by community service groups such as the Lions, Jaycees, or Chambers of Commerce. Ethnicity of the state culture has had little effect on the group sponsorship. Food is often a focal point of the festivals. In Arcadia, Wisconsin, the festival is held in honor of the local broiler chicken industry. Open tents sell locally-produced chicken delicacies, in hopes that people will come to town for the festival and afterwards buy Arcadia brands as a result.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

The Economic Geography of Regional Festivals


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.