Where’s the beef? On the last Saturday in September, it’s in Minocqua, Wis. On this episode of Brandstorm, Co-hosts Dan Trzinski and Nancy Christopher talk to Krystal Westfahl, executive director of the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce, about Beef-a-Rama and the event’s impact on the local economy. The signature Northwoods event attracts four times the town’s normal population.
As the executive director of the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce, Krystal has long history working in the leisure, travel and tourism industry. Earlier this year, she was nominated for the Governor’s “Rising Star” award at the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
What started out as a Fish-A-Rama about 54 years ago as a way to thank tourists, the festival had to change its name to Beef-A-Rama, when the fishing industry realized a seafood event would not be sustainable. So, each year on Sept. 29, the smell of beef fills the air, attracting thousands to the streets of downtown Minocqua for this quirky Northwoods festival. For over 50 years, Beef-a-Rama™ has been a premiere event with roasters cooking their signature beefs before dawn and herds of creative festival goers dressed in cow-themed costumes packing the streets to consume 1200 pounds of beef and enjoy live music, a Beef Eating Contest, Cow Pie Plop, and of course the famous Roaster Parade.
A Population Explosion
Minoqua is a town of about 7,000 residents. During the summer months, there’s about 20,000 people, including the tourists. At Beef-A-Rama, more than 40,000 people attend this one-day event. Lodging reservations need to be made months, sometimes even a year, out for those who like to repeatedly come back. Minocqua is basically an island with two bridges that lead people in and out of the town. The organizers have about 15 buses running all day to transport festival goers as far away as 15 to 20 miles. The very scope of this event is a big challenge, so there is a Beef-A-Rama app that has been developed to help people navigate through the town and let them know everything that is going on that day.
Organizing a Signature Event
Krystal says if you’re looking to create a signature event, it has to be well-defined and the quirkier, the better. You have to capture the imagination of the people with your events. More than a gathering of meat lovers, Beef-A-Rama has different activities that make this festival a grand celebration of beef.
Voted by Midwest Living as one of the top 25 coolest Midwest lake vacation spots, Minocqua attracts visitors for lots of reasons. People have been coming because it’s a family tradition. Others come for mountain biking, trail riding and to enjoy the area’s 2300 lakes, rivers and streams in any vehicle of choice. The locals call the waters “gin clear” because it’s almost like looking into a giant fishbowl to see the fish. Every community around Minocqua has its own personality and that includes Lake Tomahawk, Woodruff, Arbor Vitae – all within 10 minutes of the festival.
Beef-A-Rama is always the last Saturday in September, and this year it is Sept. 29. The fastest route to Minocqua for out-of-state travelers is from Chicago, up I-94 to Hwy. 39 to Hwy. 51. There’s only one stoplight on this route once you are in Wisconsin, and that is in Minocqua. Hwy. 51 takes you right into town, and when the road no longer goes any further (it shuts down for the festival), you are there.
General Information: 1-800-44-NORTH