By: Anastasia Penchi

Active community organizations are often the key to successful summer events.

In Onalaska, it’s the American Legion Post that puts on Onalaska Community Days. This music-filled event is celebrating its 12th year of family fun, and it will be held June 16-17 at the American Legion grounds right off Hwy. 53 at 731 Sand Lake Road in Onalaska.

Chartered in 1921, Struck-Klandrud Post 336 is classified as an “open post,” which means non-members are welcome to come eat lunch during the week and attend its annual Smelt Fry and Easter Egg Hunt. It was named in honor of two Onalaska men who died during World War I:  Otto Struck and August Klandrud.

While all the event details were not yet released at the time of this blog, officials say it will be similar to past years. In celebration of Legions everywhere and family fun, please keep the following tips in mind:

1. Card sharks are welcome.  

When asked about “the river” do you think about the last card dealt instead of the Mighty Mississippi? When someone orders trump without having trump in their hand, do you call foul and consult the writings of Edmond Hoyle? If you understand these references, you should probably look into the Texas Hold’Em and/or Euchre tournaments typically held on Saturday during Onalaska Community Days. Playing cards can be an inexpensive and amusing way to spend an evening. However, considering I got yelled at for leading “crap” during a family euchre tournament by my future brother-in-law on the first day I met him, I don’t think public tournaments are in my future.

2. There was a farmer who had a dog.

Yes, Bingo was his name-o. This family-friendly game, which many say dates back to a lottery game played in 1530 in Italy, is usually scheduled for both Friday and Saturday. This pastime also has its own terminology. If you call bingo before you really have it, you are “jumping the gun.” A “false alarm” is when you really believe you have bingo, but must’ve misheard one of the numbers. A “hard-way” bingo is a straight across bingo without the use of that free space in the middle. The nice thing about bingo is that almost anyone at any age can play — and you don’t need to know the lingo or bring your own dauber to do it.

3. Firefighters bartended last year on Friday night.

I can’t be the only person who daydreams about muscly firefighters rescuing me from non-burning buildings. Onalaska firefighters rescued the parched and thirsty as host bartenders on the Friday night of Community Days last year. Maybe they’ll be back this year? Music that night will be provided by Brat Pack Radio, a regional favorite from Minnesota. And if you have a little too much to drink, maybe someone can “fireman carry” you home? Maybe this person will also be wearing turnout gear? Wishful thinking? I suppose. It’s more realistic to think someone will call Safe Ride to get you home. They’ll likely be available, too, and I’m pretty sure they won’t be in turnout gear either.

4. Wood bat baseball tournaments are held both days.

Why wood bats, you ask? There is apparently a big debate when it comes to wooden vs. aluminum bats, based on the number of Web sites devoted to this question. Generally speaking, many organizations cite safety and a lower cost as the reason they choose wood. All I know is that baseball is a big deal to the Onalaska Legion. It has its own Web page featuring past and present college players who got their start playing tournaments like these. And in 2015, they were Regional Champs. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy watching 16 and under baseball tournaments? Come cheer on the kids as they crack that ball and run those bases.

5. Doesn’t everyone love music? 

Some of the other bands being featured this year are the Craig Olsen Project, Larry’s Drifters, Cat & the Fiddle, Burnin’ Whiskey and Jacob Martin Band. Come dance to the music.

Card sharks who want to learn more about Onalaska Community Days should visit the American Legion Post Web site at or visit the Onalaska American Legion Post 336 Facebook page.

Anastasia Penchi is graduate of UW-La Crosse and a long-time Coulee Region writer who has written for area newspapers and magazines (

See more festival fun in La Crosse County!