Oktoberfest in La Crosse, Much More Than A Festival

I arrived at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in August of 2011, eager but looking forward to one day transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I had always wanted to be a Wisconsin Badger, but due to curriculum availability, professor relations, and the price of tuition I stayed at La Crosse, nonetheless questioning my purpose in the city.

That question was answered on Saturday, September, 22  2012 when I was blessed with the chance to represent the city and Oktoberfest U.S.A. as Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest 2012.  Fest was the following weekend and I was quickly thrown into a crazy, fast paced schedule-meeting tons of new people (thank goodness for name buttons) and being escorted from event to event all while balancing my studies as a college sophomore.  Fast forward to now, working in my professional career as a news reporter for News 19 in La Crosse, I’ve encountered a number of people who’ve expressed a dislike for Oktoberfest every year (usually with them not knowing I’m a former Miss).  Of course, I love to question them and figure out why they’re displeased with the event.  People have told me they avoid the grounds, don’t like their children to be around the “party” scene, and hate the “chaotic” traffic it draws to the area.  From an insider’s perspective I can tell you that while this perception holds some (very little) truth, there are many other positive aspects of Oktoberfest in La Crosse and quite frankly long-lasting benefits to the community that reach much further than a three day festival.  Don’t believe me?  Let me enlighten you…

  1. Family and Friends: All of the workers both paid and unpaid, royal family members (Did you know there’s a royal family?  Because some people don’t.  I’ll get to that shortly.), and Grenadier Corps are believe it or not, normal people who live, work, and play in La Crosse.  Many of them have families of their own and children that they choose to surround by the gemütlichkeit of fest.  Why?  Because they know the long lasting, positive impact that the festival and organization as a whole create.
  2. Embracing Our Roots:  Oktoberfest in La Crosse officially began in 1961, but the ideas and planning commenced much sooner.  In 1960 civic leaders from the area agreed that a community wide event was needed since they had been without one since 1921.  Deciding ultimately on the fall because it’s the time when the leaves change and it marks the end of harvest, an ideal time for a little relief and community fun.  Oktoberfest U.S.A. got it’s start on 6th and State Streets where the First Federal Bank once stood, it was the site of the carnival games and rides.  The very first Maple Leaf got it’s start going down Main Street, before it began growing and was moved to the Northside. Now it makes its way down Copeland Avenue to Downtown La Crosse.

  1. Tourism Revenue:   In 2014 Oktoberfest was part of three studies that analyzed the economic impact of the festival for the area.  The studies were conducted by the Economics Department at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and West Salem High School’s DECA.  In sum, they discovered that the celebration generates roughly $15 million and creates 200 jobs.  High school students found that out of 413 random individuals interviewed along the two parade routes, residents from 70 different zip codes were identified spanning communities in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and of course, Wisconsin!  READ MORE HERE: Oktoberfest Impact Study
  2. A Year of Service:  To those directly involved with the festival, it’s a 365 days a year job.  Family members, the Grenadier Corps, and volunteers travel to countless parades during the spring, summer, and into the fall showing their support for other communities, showcasing Wisconsin’s rich German heritage, and of course increasing excitement for fest.  They also have a rigorous volunteer schedule.  Whether it’s large community events, visiting a local nursing home, taking part in a school function, cleaning up a local highway, or assisting in a fundraising effort of some sort they are some of the most compassionate people you will ever meet.
  3. Royal Family, Ambassadors:  The royal family consists of a Festmaster (equatable to a king) and his Frau, a Mrs. Oktoberfest, Torchlight Parade Marshal, Maple Leaf Parade Marshal, Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest, and Special Fester.  The Festmaster, Mrs. O and parade marshals are all chosen based on a community nomination process and are candidates who lead with a servant’s heart on a daily basis, giving back to the community in various facets.  The Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest title is part of the Miss Wisconsin and Miss America Organizations and although it’s a scholarship program which entails a pageant, the titleholder spends her year volunteering her time with a mission to make a positive impact.  Finally, the Special Fester is a young student in the area who has a disability.  This position is also chosen on a nomination basis and many of the past representatives and their families credit the organization with helping them come out of their shell and open up as a person.

Five and half years have passed since I served as an ambassador for La Crosse and Oktoberfest and I would not change my decision to stay in this beautiful city for anything.  It was the selfless volunteers with the Grenadier Corps, my personal Oktoberfest Royal Family, past family members, and my volunteerism in the community that without me even realizing it, helped influence me to change my career path from one I was forcing myself down, to one that I love.  It was my involvement with the program that led me to an internship due to mutual connections.  That internship position in turn led me to meeting one of my very best friends that God so graciously allowed my heart to open up to.  Not to mention, countless relationships and opportunies I would have never had the chance to experience had it not been for Oktoberfest.  

Prost to the Mississippi River’s incredible West Coast! If you didn’t know a lot about the heart and sweat behind the festival itself, I hope this message changed your viewpoint.  The next time you’re contemplating saying something negative about one minuscule part the atmosphere Fest creates I hope you remember just how positive the celebration is economically speaking for the City of La Crosse.  And I truly hope you make plans to come out and enjoy Oktoberfest, September 28 through October first.

MORE INFORMATION: Oktoberfest U.S.A.

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Coping with the Ebb and Flow of Life

Let’s have an utmost moment of truth, shall we?  Life isn’t always as picture perfect as it may seem and if you’re anything like me, when hard times hit and emotions build up, you tend to internalize those and try your best to focus on the good and the people in your life rather than your own struggles.  While I’m not denoting how great that is to have an optimistic mindset and a selfless one at that, the older I get the more comfortable I become with who I am and consequently continue to realize that it’s okay to not be okay.  Sadness, heartache, anger, flaws, failure – it’s what makes us human and in a twisted way that’s the beauty of life.For seven years I worked towards a goal I wanted so badly to achieve.  As the years progressed, my dream and desire grew immensely with every opportunity I was provided and each person I was able to meet and impact with my story and life passions. Then, just two months ago that dream came to an abrupt end in what seemed like the blink of an eye.  In my preparations, I fully went into Miss Wisconsin 2017 week with the mindset that I wasn’t coming back to La Crosse (the city I’ve called home the past six years), as I felt that was an important mentality to have in order to go “all in.”  Needless to say, it’s been difficult to re-adjust and cope with the reality that I am back, that I’m not Miss Wisconsin, and that the current stage of life I’m in holds a lot of uncertainty.  There’s been days when I just want to curl up in bed and watch Netflix, moments where I feel utmost despair in relation to my job (come on, I know you’ve all been there), and other times when I completely question decisions I’ve made; but there’s almost always a moment of reflection or clarity that follows.

My sister recently got married and in my Maid of Honor speech I touched on how there are many defining moments in our lives: graduations, new job opportunities, marriage, etc.  Through the trials and tribulations those milestones throw our way, there’s always constant figures that stand by our sides.  Relationships may dwindle and change, people most certainly come and go, individuals you think care deeply about you vanish in a flash without looking back; but through it all there’s a core group of people — our family and our closest friends that will never leave us.  The older I get, the deeper sense of appreciation I gain for that core group and the undivided support they provide me during the good times and the bad…even when I don’t want to disclose information or how I’m feeling about a certain matter; like Miss Wisconsin.  It’s no surprise I’m extremely stubborn and sassy, I’ve been that way practically since birth.  So when Miss Wisconsin came and finals passed by, it was easiest to internalize how I felt and push forward like the strong, independent woman I learned best from, my mother.  However, after receiving kind comments (repeatedly) about how I seem to always have it together amidst my career and social life, I felt it was important to point out that no, I do not have it “all together” or on most days partially together for that matter and again…that’s okay.  In fact, if it were not for coffee on most days I’d be a complete train wreck.  I am typically rushing around getting ready in the morning, barely having time to pack a lunch before I run out the door for work and the rest of the day seems like a blur.  By the time I get home and finally get a chance to lay down I consequently feel like I got nothing accomplished that I meant to during the day, anyone with me?

People don’t share the daily craziness and occurrences of their life on Facebook or Instagram because that’s not typically exciting.  Social media, although it’s a great forum to share positive memories and edited photos, it’s not always a plausible representation of someone or their life on a regular basis.  Instead, it’s a highlight of the good and it’s important to take that with a grain of salt.  Personally, there are plenty of elements of my life at this very moment in time that are unknown and others that are frustrating.  Whether it be college loans, the desperate need for a new vehicle, or not knowing what my next move is — remember that everyone is consumed by their own demons and obstacles.

If you’re coping with a difficult situation or dream that has slipped away from you know, trust in God’s timing.  His plan and purpose for you is much greater than you can imagine and you have to trust time to guide you down the path you are meant to be on.  On that note, please go vote for our Miss Wisconsin, McKenna Collins for America’s Choice at Miss America in just a few weeks.  She’s been doing an incredible job representing our state and needs your support now more than ever!  You can vote once daily, voting is free!

Vote for Miss Wisconsin, McKenna Collin’s for America’s Choice: VOTE

Lesson to be learned in this heartfelt message — listen to your heart and your gut when they’re instinctively trying to tell you something.  Don’t push emotions aside when you’re upset or discouraged about something, but rather reflect on those feelings and acknowledge that they are absolutely valid.  Finally, don’t judge a book by it’s cover and always attempt to put yourself in someone else’s shoes before being quick to make assumptions about them.  You never know what battle someone is facing and a simple compliment goes a long way.  Also, be optimistic about life and laugh in the face of hardship, a simple moment of joy can go a long way.  That is all


On a lighter, tighter and more humorous note there’s also the ebb and flow of when you put weight on (or as I like to think packed on some gains) and none of your shorts seem to fit you, aka me this summer. After maintaining a vigorously healthy diet and exercising more than usual leading up to Miss Wisconsin, I’ve provided myself a little more leeway the past couple months.  Now don’t get me wrong, many of my shorts didn’t fit prior to that week – they just sat in my drawer as I chose and choose to wear jeans most days instead or yoga capris  when I’m not working (who wouldn’t want comfies instead?).  After trying on my shorts recently, I realized that with the changes of life I’m SO over short-shorts and quite frankly I don’t know why I ever wore them.  PSA-they’re not the least bit comfortable, I’d rather not have tight fabric riding up the front and back of my body (no, thanks).

I recently posted a handful of my shorts on Poshmark, an APP that allows you to buy and sell clothes, of which I’m obsessed with as of recent.  I swear whoever invented it was sick and tired of not getting the money they thought they deserved at Plato’s Closet (we’ve all been there).  Please check out my listings and take them off my hands if you’re interested, I’ll be posting more very, very soon.

SHOP MY Poshmark Closet Here: Tianna Vanderhei’s ClosetP.S. This entire outfit was purchased at TJ Maxx.  The high waisted, relaxed fit denim shorts were less than $20 and are super duper comfy and the top falls into the same satisfactory category.  In fact, I pretty much feel as though I’m wearing pajamas when I style them together!

  • GAZE Ruffle Bell Sleeve Top from TJ Maxx, ONLY $9.99 – Reasons this top is fabulous: (1) It can be dressed down for a casual look with jeans or shorts  (2) You can jazz it up with dress pants or a skirt for a work environment  (3)  Adding accessories and heels can transcend it into the perfect look for a night out on the town.  Even better?  The cotton material is super soft and flowing.

 

 

Other flowing, classic black shirts you should check out:

 

Stay stylish and optimistic friends,

XO

Embroidered Items You Need for Fall

The embroidery trend is out in full force and it’s freaking fabulous.  I will admit, my usual style is classy and sexy, but edgy and this certainly accentuates the edgy side of my wardrobe.  I also feel as though (sadly) as we get older, our wardrobe tends to get more and more bland and that’s just not okay with me.  “You don’t quit playing because you grow old, you grow old because you quit playing.”  —  Don’t lose your whimsical desire to experiment with things in life, including your style.  Try new things, dare to be bold, and most importantly spice it up every now and then.  Like these jeans… 

P.S. My white and blue striped, collared top is Levi’s.  Snagged at TJ Maxx for ONLY $8 and it’s originally $49.95!  Just another prime reason as to why I love TJ’s oh so much.

Looking for some other jeans to spice up your wardrobe a little bit as we prepare to transition into the fall season (yes, I know you’re probably telling me to bite my tongue but it’s quickly approaching and we can’t stop it from coming)?  If you’re not super into the bright contrast of the flowers and chili peppers on the Indigo Rein skinnies, these Nanette by Nanette Lepore Released Hem Jeans from TJ Maxx provide the same, trendy touch but in a much more subtle way PLUS they’re currently marked down from $29.99 to only $15!

 

Here are a handful of other embroidered jeans that may suit your liking if you’re not uber fond of the first two options.  I especially love the BooHoo High Rise floral jeans from ASOS.


 

Of course you can’t just shop embroidered jeans without buying some eye-catching tops too.  Obviously I wouldn’t recommend pairing embroidered pants with some type of embroidered shirt because the patterns would most likely class, but these tops work great with colored pants or solid jeans of some sort.  My personal favorite out of these six from three of my go-to stores (TJ Maxx, Lulu’s, and Francesca’s) is #6, the ‘Beautiful Imagery Light Blue Button Down.’

Stay stylish and sassy my friends,

XO

The Perfect Presents for the Future Mrs.

Leading up to the big day, you want to ensure that bride in your life feels extra special.  Whether it’s a sister, extended family member, or friend you want to ensure she feels as pampered and glamorous as you would want to feel in the days leading up to and especially the night before your wedding, right? (Rhetorical question guys).  I’ve shared with you some bridal shower decoration tips and low key Bachelorette party items to purchase, now let’s talk pre-wedding day goodies you can’t pass up.


SEE: Gifts for the Bride in Your Life


I’ll be honest, this is only the second wedding I’ve stood up in.  The first one was for a dear friend of mine and now, I’m the Maid of Honor to my older sister (yikes is right).  It’s a much more stressful process than I ever imagined being directly involved in the planning process and details.  However, I found that keeping an electronic list on my “AnyList” App on my iPhone that covers both wedding tasks and items that need to be purchased has helped me stay focused in the weeks leading up to the wedding day.  It gave me gratification to see what I accomplished and was a constant reminder of what I still needed to see through.  One element of that list was gifts for the bride.  I decided to put together a basket to give her after the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, constantly asking myself, “If I was in her position what would I want?”  Here are some things that were included in that gift that are extremely versatile for the future Mrs. in your life…

A Simplistic Mrs. Necklace

Side note:  Be sure to know the bride’s taste before you dive into buying these cute gifts.  What am I talking about?  Well, for example, I ordered my sister this necklace in silver because I know she’s not a fan of gold (at all).  Whereas I would prefer the gold because I’m obsessed with it and can’t get enough gold accessories and furniture.Matching Shirts for the Bride and Groom

These v-neck and standard t-shirt shirts come in four colors: charcoal, black, heather gray and white.  I ordered the ones pictured from M&E’s Collection on Etsy, they’re the heather gray option.  I was pleasantly surprised when they arrived.  They’re lightweight, soft, and simple — perfect present for the bride and groom, but in my opinion it’s not newlywed overkill.  #ScoreA Customized Satin Robe

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to embrace their new name and sport their love for their new hubby with a comfy, sexy robe?

Rustic Personalized Wedding Hanger

Future Mrs. Sash, great for a Bachelorette Party, Bridal Shower, or in this case, Pre-Wedding Festivities

Aside from the plethora of customized Mrs. items there are to choose from, nothing beats those personal, favorite items that are needed on the eve or day of the wedding.  I snagged this white “Mrs.” canvas basket at Walmart and decided to fill it with helpful items including: ibuprofen, tums, mini bottles of the  bride’s favorite alcohol, oil blotting sheets, and Peach-O’s (the bride’s favorite candy) among other items.  Some other useful things you may want to include in a basket for the bride in your life include: bobby pins, hair ties, mints or gum, and notes.  I had each of my grandparents and parents write letters and/or notes sharing marriage advice and reflective memories about th bride for her to read the night before her wedding and she absolutely loved it-highly recommend!

Still looking for some items for her or perhaps yourself if you’re the bride, no need to fret!  Here are some more of my favorite items that just never quite made their way to my cart, but were certainly pinned and saved just in case.

TOTE1

TOTE2

 

Why You Need Kleenex Facial Cleansing Products

First off, they’re made in Wisconsin, what more could you ask for?  Didn’t know that? Yes, it’s true Kleenex products are based in Neenah, pretty neat, right?  It’s a brand we all know and love; after all…be honest you don’t call other “tissue” brands tissue, you most likely say “Can you please hand me a Kleene?” Without even realizing it and now they have new products for you to obsess over.

Moment of truth...I’m always a little skeptical when it comes to facial cleansers and products because my skin is extremely sensitive (it’s a redhead thing).  However, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the Kleenex Cleansing Products and how refreshed my skin felt after using them.  Here’s a break down of the items…

Eye Makeup Removers

There’s 60 small, palm sized micro-fine textured pads in the standard container.  Better yet?  They’re an oil free remover that’s strategically shaped to control around your eyes and help remove all your eyeshadow, liner, and mascara.  All you need to do is wipe across your eyes a couple of times and flip it over to the reveal the fresh surface for the other eye.  While I don’t use waterproof eye makeup, I still feel as though there’s constantly reminantsafter  “removing” my makeup; with these I felt bare and clean.  Thumbs up in my book!

Facial Cleansing Wipes

Yes, yes, and yes!  These pre-moisturized wipes are based with water and aloe to remove impurities (and excess makeup) while moisturizing your precious face.  The simple instructions have you use the entire wipe to cleanse your forehead and cheeks, folding that in half for your nose and mouth, and then in half a second time to cover the remaining surfaces and your eyes.  I put the “purse pack” in my purse (naturally) and pulled them out on a drive back from Madison and was able to easily take off my make-up.  I would highly recommend them!

Kleenex Exfoliating Cushions

The packaging says “Radiant, smoother skin with just one use,” and they aren’t kidding.  These dual-sided, multi-layered cleansers are heaven sent.  Each pad is infused with a pro-vitamin complex that helps to cleanse your skin, while smoothing and brightening it.  Immediately after I used one my face felt refreshed and my skin felt firmer.

Final review?  I love the new cleansing products from Kleenex and have no reservations that you will as well, check them out friends!

XO

Don’t Pay that Designer Price for Designer Jeans

Want designer, high quality jeans without paying a fortune for them?  Look no further.These Calvin Klein light wash jeans were snagged at TJ Maxx for only $29.99.  Yes, you read that right.  They’re super stretchy and comfy skinny jeans and I absolutely love the burned out coloration on the ankle.  Shop skinny jean options at TJ Maxx: “Skinny Jeans”

Let’s talk about flounce tops because I can’t seem to get enough of them this season.  They’re comfortable and sexy with an edgy feel.  This black bodysuit I’m wearing is from Forever 21 and was purchased for about $15.  Bodysuits are even better because they fit nice and tight.  Plus, there are thong options so you don’t have to worry about that pesky line in whatever pants you’re wearing.  I’ve linked some similar ones below you might like!

 

And no outfit is ever complete without the perfect pair of shoes (my guiltiest pleasure when it comes to shopping purchases).  These Zigi Soho black suede mule sandals were only $24.99 at TJ Maxx.  I actually joked that I don’t have ‘buyer’s remorse’ I have remorse when I leave a store without buying something I like and end up going back for it; which is precisely what I did with these shoes.  So dilemma.  As much as I love the slide-on, contemporary look of the mule trend…I’m not a fan of the uber chunky heels so it’s been difficult to find ones I like enough to pull the trigger on.

Stay stylish and spend less my friends,

XO

Gifts for the Bride in Your Life

Do you have a bride-to-be that’s not into the crazy, night out on the town Bachelorette party?  Still looking for a way to spoil her before her big day and make her feel loved?  How about throwing a pool party bash with the girls or even a “Sunday Funday” get together with both sides of the wedding party and other close friends.  My sister wasn’t super keen on a wild evening, so we decided to have a pool party gathering with all the bridesmaids, groomsmen, their significant others, and friends.  I’m sharing some of the items I purchased for her because (in my opinion) it’s extremely important that the bride feels special; not just on her special day, but in the months leading up to her “I Do” moment as well.

Many of these items are not only perfect for a hot, summer day in the sun, but as pre-wedding gifts as well.  So whether you’re prepping for a typical bachelorette party, wedding shower, or laid back shindig — here are some gifts don’t want to pass up.

Bridal Hair Ties.

First off, in the midst of wedding preparation, Etsy has become my new best friend.  To the point where I downloaded the app on my phone and have both my debit and credit card linked to it (handy, but deadly).  There’s so many products to choose from with customizable items to ensure your bride will absolutely love them.  I ordered these hair ties from Two Lil Pumpkins’ shop on Etsy that read, “To have and to Hold Your Hair Back.”  Seriously, how cute is that?!  SHOP HERE: (Only $5) Bridal Hair Ties from Two Lil PumpkinsA “Future Mrs.” and/or Mrs. Customized Item(s).

This customizable, embroidered floppy hat was purchased from Magnolia Stitch Design on Etsy (I’m telling you, it’s as easy as Etsy).  It’s sturdy, the brim flexes with how the bride wants the brim to lya, and it’s absolutely adorable.  I would highly recommend this item as a fun pool party present for the bride or a honeymoon gift, it’s chic and gives her a chance to show off her new name.  P.S. I’m more of a baseball cap girl myself and there’s plenty of “Mrs.” washed out caps and yet again, customizable Mrs. ones to choose from on Etsy!  (Here’s my favorite: Future Mrs. Cap from Little Brownn Suitcase)A “Future Mrs.” Sash.

There’s countless cheap, chintzy sashes that read “Bachelorette” or “Last Fling Before the Ring,” it’s been done.  Try ordering a custom sash that has a classier saying across it or perhaps her name!  Check some out here: Lauren Lash Designs LLCMatching Bridal Party Tank Tops.

Nothing screams “BRIDAL PARTY” like matching outfits.  Lately, the whole LBD for the bridesmaids and a classic white dress for the bride has been all the rage when women take to the town for a fun night out.  SHOP HERE: Party Gift Store on EtsyBridal Floaties.

It’s no surprise that Target is a dangerous vortex…

You go in there on a mission, with a few items in mind (consciously repeating them to yourself) and walk out with six items you didn’t need and one of the things that you actually intended on buying.  You’re lying to yourself if you just said that has never happened to you.  Thankfully, I came across this fabulous diamond ring floatie and small drink floaties while searching online and ordered them for in-store pick-up.  So naturally and thankfully I avoided the countless distractions that would have consumed my attention had I walked through the actual store to pick them up.  Needless to say, the large tube is perfect for that bride-to-be in your life and it’s only $19.99, SHOP IT HERE: Big Mouth Giant Bling Ring Pool Float.

Diamond Floatieimg_0448Drink Floaties

Surprisingly, the Big Mouth Bling Ring Beverage Boats were much sturdier than initially expected.  Also, they’re too cute and suitable for the occassion not to purchase.