How Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest Became An Area Ambassador

The belle of the ball, Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest is a role model, an ambassador, and public representative for the La Crosse community and our Oktoberfest Royal Family in the Miss Wisconsin and Miss America organization. She is confident, poised, talented, intelligent, an activist on issues, an eloquent communicator and takes personal pride in physical fitness.

In 1961, Marlene Schultz (pictured above) was crowned the first Miss Oktoberfest, but halfway through the year, she got married and Diane Morgan stepped in and finished out the year as Miss Oktoberfest. In 1962, Bob Larson; the first pageant director; planned a Friday night program at the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium that drew in a huge crowd. 29 women competed in the pageant and were judged based on these categories: informal dress, evening gown, Oktoberfest costume, and oral competition.

Pictured above is an overhead view from the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium showing a candidate in front of the orchestra, judges, and audience.

Over the years, this pageant became known as the Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest Scholarship Program, an official preliminary to both the Miss Wisconsin and Miss America Organizations. Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest Scholarship Program awards thousands of dollars in cash and in-kind scholarships plus many gifts and benefits every year. Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest also travels to many festivals and appearances each year with the Oktoberfest Royal Family.

Pictured above in 1994 from left, Pam Hagen, Katherine Theisen, Abigail Meisch, Jeanie Hankey, Jaine Jessesski, Kristina Kruse, and Krista Clements.

Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest’s Marilyn Brahmsteadt (1967), Gail Soller (1981), Barabra Mullally (1983), and Kristina Smaby (2006) have all become Miss Wisconsin during their reign. Kristina Smaby was also awarded over $30,000 in scholarships and headed West to compete at Miss America in 2010.

Pictured above from left, Jim Garvalia (1968 Fest president), Joan Mary Engh Gillete (1962 Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest and first runner-up in Miss Ameria pageant), Marilyn Brahmsteadt (1962 Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest and Miss Wisconsin), and Jack Martin (1967 Festmaster).

In order to be eligible to become Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest, you must:

  • be a young woman between the ages of 17 – 25
  • be 18 years of age by July 31st of Miss Wisconsin competition and no older than 25 by December 31st of Miss America competition
  • be a high school graduate at the time of the Miss Wisconsin competition
  • live, work, or go to school in La Crosse County
  • never have been married or pregnant

Pictured above are Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest contestants in 2004 from front row left, Amber Brand, Beth Bruzek, Kristina Gross, and Katie Rick. Back row from left, Erin Peterson, Lauren Buelow, Katie Ekern, Ashley Salzmann, Maggie Lee, Rachel Collins, and Trisha Zweig.

Meet our 2019 Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest here, Jordenne Butler (pictured above) and see the full list of former titleholders.