2019 Festmaster & Frau – Terry & Shelly Cowgill

The Cowgills were introduced to current and former Oktoberfest royalty and local media at a private reception hosted on September 23rd, 2019 by Oktoberfest fixture Gail Cleary. Cleary’s father, Roy Kumm, was the fest’s third festmaster. Cleary’s husband, Russ, was the 28th Festmaster.

Cowgill said he is excited to join the 2019 Oktoberfest family and that he intends to enjoy every minute of his time as festmaster.  He has fond memories of marching in the parades as a “front row trombone” in the Caledonia High School marching band, he said, especially during the Torchlight Parade because it takes place at night.

As the “face of the fest,” Cowgill said he expects to be everywhere. “We’ll be making the rounds.”

These rounds include four days of celebrating beer and German culture with tens of thousands of festival goers in La Crosse. The reigning festmaster and the “Royal Family” also visit nursing homes and elementary schools the week after Oktoberfest, and attend about 100 events, including 22 parades, throughout the year.

And it’s not his first rodeo, either.

Cowgill’s son, Jonah, who has autism, was the 2010 Special Fester. The Special Fester recognizes someone in the community with a disability. Cowgill and his wife, Shelly, also a dentist, incorporated a blue puzzle piece, the symbol of Autism Speaks, into their commemorative Festmaster pin design.

The Cowgills also have two daughters, Sophie and Grace.

The Festmaster and Frau made their first official appearance on the back of Russ’ mustard yellow Buick Centurion 455 convertible as it drove from Cleary’s garage to the house, which was decorated with a pair of inflatable pretzels hanging from the balcony.



Former Festmasters and Fraus

2019-2020Terry CowgillShelly
2018-2019Mike KeilKaren
2017-2018Brian RudeKaren
2016-2017Joe KruseBarbara
2015-2016Chuck RothLuAnn
2014-2015Scott HorneSue
2013-2014David RingDenise
2012-2013Brad SturmLynn
2011-2012Jerry KemberNan
2010-2011Ed PrzytarskiEileen
2009-2010Todd OndellDeb
2008-2009Mike WeissenbergerJoan
2007-2008Peter KrauseKrin
2006-2007Terry CollinsKarolyn
2005-2006Peter StinsonSally
2004-2005Ted DewaldMarlene
2003-2004Chris WeissBeth
2002-2003Bill LeonardKay
2001-2002Tom SleikJudy
2000-2001Lyle QuillinSandy
1999-2000Rollo Taylor*Kay
1998-1999Steve WebsterKatie
1997-1998Duane MooreJan
1996-1997Deak SwansonJeanne
1995-1996Howard Voss*Bernadine
1994-1995Al BeckerAnne
1993-1994Bill Otto*Mary Jo
1992-1993Bill LarkinJan
1991-1992Karl FriedlineMarcia*
1990-1991Duane Taebel*Carol
1989-1990Russ Cleary*Gail
1988-1989Steve PavelaMarian
1987-1988Alex Skover*Fran*
1986-1987Harry Wiggert*Beverly*
1985-1986Carl "Cully" Rebhan*Ruth
1984-1985Bernie Degen*Barbara
1983-1984Quinn Johnson*Lorraine
1982-1983John Mooney*Nettie*
1981-1982Bob Mullally*Mary Ann
1980-1981Joe Ludden*Lyn
1979-1980George Frost*Jan*
1978-1979Wally Rose*Helen
1977-1978Art Dugan*Leona*
1976-1977Dave Hammes*Betty*
1975-1976Sam Hagerman*Betty*
1974-1975Jack CusterM.J.
1973-1974Dick Beggs*Evalyn*
1972-1973Walt HammondSally*
1971-1972Joe Rohrer*Evelyn*
1970-1971Cully Prinz*Dorothy "Stubby"
1969-1970Hans Zoreb*Belle*
1968-1969John Thomas*Gretchen*
1967-1968Jack MartinElsie "Tiny" *
1966-1967Lincoln Neprud*Laura*
1965-1966John Coleman*Adelheid*
1964-1965Roy Kumm*Hope*
1963-1964Ray Ping*Mildred*
1962-1963Don Rice*Lorraine*
* Fondly remembered

Who will represent La Crosse as the 2020 Festmaster?

The selection of the Festmaster is one of the oldest and most cherished Fest traditions. The selection process and naming of the new Festmaster is very secret and the mystery only adds to the fun!

The Festmaster heads the Oktoberfest Royal Family and is chosen annually by the Board of Trustees. Once selected, the Board of Trustees Chairman, along with the past year’s Festmaster, mentors the new Festmaster, bringing him up to speed on his duties, expectations, and appearances.

The new Festmaster & Frau are announced at the Festmaster’s Ball, held yearly in August.

Nominations for the 2020 Festmaster are now being accepted and will close January 6th!

Oktoberfest USA (La Crosse Festivals, Inc.) accepts nominations for Festmaster near the end of the calendar year. If you know a man who is deserving, involved, and would be a great fit in our community-focused organization, submit your nomination below!

Nominations will be accepted for a man who is…

  • married
  • age 50 or older
  • a resident for at least 10 years within 20 mile radius of La Crosse
  • actively involved and well-known in La Crosse community
  • has the time to devote to Oktoberfest activities!

The following information is required to complete the nomination:

  • Name of the nominee
  • Nominee’s address & contact information
  • Nominee’s biographical information – this would include such information as occupation, community or volunteer service, church involvement, professional activities, community or professional awards
  • Nominator’s name and personal comments as to why they have submitted nominee’s name

The final selection is made by the Board of Trustees however all nominations are kept on file for three years from the date of submission. New Festmasters are announced at the Festmaster’s Ball celebration.

Click here to nominate your pick for 2020 Festmaster.