Village of Oakfield plans several events to commemorate 1996 tornado

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 4:16 PM CDT
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OAKFIELD, Wis. (WBAY) - The Village of Oakfield prepares to commemorate the 1996 tornado that tore through town. On Sunday, it will be exactly 25 years since nearly $40-million dollars of damage was done.

Sunday, July 18th marks 25 years since an EF-4 tornado tore a path through the Village of Oakfield.

“Everything south of here for two blocks was pretty much wiped out,” says Gary Collien, the fire chief at the time of the tornado.

Dozens of homes were damaged, others destroyed. Churches and businesses were leveled, but miraculously, no one was killed. According to Collien, “Most people took cover. The County Fair was going on at the time so a lot of people were out of town at the fair. It was a little after 7 so it was still daylight, so most people weren’t in bed. So I think all of those things were in our favor that we had no fatalities.”

And while it took weeks to clean up the village, before rebuilding could begin, people in Oakfield persevered. And that’s what Sunday’s 25th anniversary celebration is all about.

“It’s just something we look back on. We’re glad nobody died because of the tornado. It’s just something we should look back on and reflect and look how we’ve come,” says Owen Stoppleworth, coordinator of the anniversary event.

Churches impacted by the tornado are holding open houses and services. Bars and restaurants are running specials. The historical society is putting on an ice cream social, as well as walk through the infamous day. And part of the UW Marching band will be performing during a special parade through town.

“Anybody can come,” says Stoppleworth. “Come to the parade, come to all of our events, look at the 25 years later. We have some, we did some aerial footage with some drones 25 years later, kind of the same then and now images from the tornado. The trees are growing back, it’s starting to look like Oakfield once did.”

Click here for more information on the day of events.

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