2023 Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest – Emma Garrison

Photo of Emma Garrison at crowning

Article of Brad Quarberg

If they gave a crown for persistence, Emma Garrison would get it. Instead, she became the 2023 Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest.

Because of her determination, the 2022 UW-La Crosse graduate has won the title — the fourth time she ran for the crown. Garrison received the honor during the scholarship program at the Capella Performing Arts Center Saturday, Sept. 9.

The 23-year-old persisted through 16 competitions during the past four years to finally land a Miss America Organization title that will allow her to compete for the crown of Miss Wisconsin next June. It’s a goal she’s had for a long time.

When Garrison was in middle school of her hometown, Waunakee, Miss Capital City came into her class.

“I thought she was the coolest person ever,” recalls Garrison.

That title holder’s sister who eventually competed in the Miss Teen program became one of Garrison’s best friends. Once Garrison turned 18, she started competing for Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest.

That has paid off for Garrison both financially and personally. In the 16 competitions in the Miss America program, she’s earned $13,000 in scholarships. Among her titles: first runner-up for Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest in 2022, first runner-up for Miss Onalaska 2022 and second runner-up for Miss Madison in 2022. She also held the 2023 Americas Ideal Miss Wisconsin title.

Along with the runner-up titles, Garrison received the Citizenship Award and Community Service Award during the 2022 Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest competition, Spirit of Miss America award Miss Onalaska 2022, as well as the Spirit of Miss America during the 2019 Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest program.

During the most recent Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest competition, Garrison also won overall interview, overall on-stage question, overall evening gown, and the Delbert & Linda Shafer Volunteer Memorial Scholarship. Garrison is excited to represent the area she has come to love and wants to start her professional career.

“I am most looking forward to Oktoberfest and being a part of the royal family,” she says. “I am so excited to be part of this community, travel to schools and to represent La Crosse at Miss Wisconsin.”

For her talent during the competition, Garrison turned to her viola to play “John Ryan’s Polka,” a song from the movie “Titanic” that she also played in Ireland with her high school folk band. She has played viola since she was in grade 4.

“I wanted to quit right away, but my mom made me keep with it,” she explains. “I eventually loved it once I was introduced to folk music. I’ve played for around 11 years.”

Garrison beat cancer when she was 17, an experience that helped her begin whole-body health. Then at 20, she was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It made her realize the lack of education or support for students with the disorder. Often females are misdiagnosed with anxiety and never given the proper treatment, she says. The experience helped form her professional goals.

“With experience in education, psychology and parent training I plan to use my skills to create digital resources with education around the signs of ADHD, different treatment options, and where to seek support in the community,” she says.

Garrison thanks all who have helped her achieve her goal of becoming Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest. Her next goals include passing her Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) license exam and making La Crosse proud at the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship program.

She credits her strong faith in helping her along this journey, and encourages others to not fear failure, but to embrace it because through failure is where true character is built.

“To anyone who has a dream that was placed in their hearts, it’s there for a reason,” she says. “Never give up hope. You were made to shine.”

The Emma Garrison file

  • Hometown is Waunakee, Wisconsin
  • Graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology, UW-La Crosse, UWL 2022; currently a graduate student studying Applied Behavioral Analysis online through Purdue Global.
  • Currently works as a Behavior Assistant at Chileda.
  • Social impact initiative: “Miss Misunderstood: Succeeding with ADHD.”
  • Three interesting facts: youngest sister is 18 years younger than her; owns a rescue dog named Poppy; allergic to chocolate.

The Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest Scholarship Program is an official preliminary to both the Miss Wisconsin and Miss America Organizations. Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest serves as an ambassador for the La Crosse community as a part of the Oktoberfest Royal Family. She also performs countless hours of volunteer work promoting her personal platform, the national platform of American Heart Association, and competes for the honor of serving as Miss Wisconsin. This is an organization focused on community service, heritage, and empowering young women to achieve their personal, academic, and professional goals.

The 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.

Please follow Emma’s journey on the Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest Scholarship Program page on Facebook page for news and updates.


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

  • Miss America 18-28 – must be 18 by state competition,  and no older than 27 at state competition
  • You must ALSO meet criteria as shown below:
    • Be a United States citizen
    • Be a female
    • Single
    • No legal dependents
    • Meet residency requirements for competing in your city or state (must live, work, or go to school in La Crosse County)

All interested candidates should email [email protected] for more information.

Former Titleholders

Year of ReignMiss La Crosse/Oktoberfest
2022Zoe de Boer
2021Maddie Adickes
2019-2020Jordenne Butler
2018Elle Mark (Miss Minnesota 2021)
2017Madeline Kumm
2016Mattie Mae Krause
2015Zoe Roou
2014Audra Fuchsel
2013Christa Brehm
2012Tianna Vanderhei (Miss Wisconsin 2018)
2011Kate Gorman (Miss Wisconsin 2012)
Ellen Poeschel
2010Elizabeth Kramer
2009Raeanna Johnson (Miss Wisconsin 2011, Miss Wisconsin 2014)
2008Katie Ekern
2007Mandy Nogle
2006Kristina Smaby (Miss Wisconsin 2009)
2005Beth Bruzek
2004Maggie Lee
2003Katie Mumaw
2002Mandy Kupietz
2001Abby Ryan
2000Erin Schockmel
1999Alyssa Bruemmer
1998Kristina Kruse
1997Polly Steffes
1996Misty Averill
1995Abigail Meisch
1994Gwen Overhouse
1993Samara McAllister
1992Dawn Holmes (September - December)
Kam-Lin Kaio (January - September)
1991Jodi Bakken
1990Heather Horton
1989Patti Hunt
1988Liz McConahay
1987Stephanie Strever
1986Annette Huppert
1985Kim Torgerud
1984Rhonda Bentley
1983Barb Mullallly (Miss Wisconsin)
Brenda Holthaus
1982Karen Schreier
1981Gail Soller (Miss Wisconsin)
Theresa Olson
1980Amy Schatzke
1979Jill Glendenning
1978Mary Nelson
1977Wendy Jo Abell*
1976Sue Ofstedahl
1975Debby Nerby
1974Jackie French
1973Sandra Marx
1972Linda Deitte
1971Kathy Kennedy
1970Rita Deniger
1969Marie Beaman
1968Kristie Gates
1967Marilyn Brahmsteadt (Miss Wisconsin)
Fran Noyce
1966Kathy Hickey
1965Pat Krueger
1964Nancy Zinn
1963Mary Kay Knudson*
1962Marilyn Otto
1961Marlene Schultz
Diane Morgan
*Fondly Remembered