When I came to La Crosse in the fall of 2011 to attend school at UW-La Crosse, I knew at some point during my time in the area I wanted to run for the title of Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest. I also knew I didn’t want to compete in September of my freshman year. Instead, I wanted to give myself time to adjust to my new home, meet new people, and learn about the city of La Crosse.
I decided to participate in the 2012 Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest pageant held at Viterbo University’s Fine Arts Center on Saturday, September 15 (fall of my sophomore year in college). The Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest pageant is a closed program so practices started mid-summer. Weekly meetings with outgoing director, Beth Vogt, new directors, Amy Ryan and Lisa Horman, board members, and other contestants consisted of talent run-throughs, mock interview panels, walking pattern practice, opening and closing number production practice, and on-stage question rehearsal. Before I knew it, pageant day arrived. I was excited, nervous, eager, and most importantly content the morning of the pageant; confidently ready (as ready as I could’ve been) to go into my interview and to exude all of my heart and energy onto that stage come showtime.
First of all, I’m thankful that at this point in time, I had progressed a bit with my hair since the first two Miss America Organization pageants I competed in. Rather than rocking (or so I thought) the tight curls I finally learned how to (kind of) brush my hair out into a loose curl.
Our closing production number at the pageant was to “What Makes You Beautiful,” by One Direction and since I was the very last contestant, #11, I got to walk out first as it was in reverse order. The amount of excitement and adrenaline running through my veins when this photo below was taken can’t really be explained. I felt amazing about my performance that night and was eager to discover who would serve as Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest 2012; but I had absolutely no idea in that moment the crazy, fun-filled, life-changing year that was ahead of me at that point in time.
The night I was crowned I still remember countless people telling me, “You’re in for a crazy year,” and “This is going to be one of the best years of your life.” But the thing that truly resonated with me were the words that typically followed those statements, “You cannot explain Oktoberfest to someone…you have to live it,” and I did.
Standing on stage with tears streaming down my face I pretended I knew the words to Ein Prosit as the large crowd of Oktoberfest family members in the crowd sang to me. Lucky for me, I heard it thousands of times during my year and had it down in a matter of days.
My five biggest cheerleaders in all that I set out to accomplish, my sister (Morgan), mom (Tina), dad (Gary), and my brothers (Reece and Ridge). From a very young age I’ve possessed a strong-minded, outgoing, sassy attitude that helps me chase after the goals I wish to achieve in life. I wouldn’t hold that view on life if it weren’t for you all pushing me to my full potential and most importantly-allowing me to be myself. Thank you for always standing by my side and providing me with unconditional love and support, I’m so lucky to have you all in my life. XO
The week after my crowning, I dove into Oktoberfest 2012. During the year, alongside my royal family, we sang and danced our way through 14 schools and 18 nursing homes during Oktoberfest week, traveled to St. Paul Winter Carnival and had the chance to tour the Wabasha Street Caves, attended Minneapolis Aquatennial and got a V.I.P. tour of Target field….not to mention we brought Oktoberfest cheer and gemütlichkeit to many people throughout the state and in Minnesota and Iowa along parade routes throughout the spring and summer.
(More pictures from my year can be found on the Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest Scholarship Program Facebook page and on my Tianna Vanderhei Public Figure Facebook page.)
Accomplishments and appearances during my year as Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest 2012:
- Attended the Miss Onalaska pageant
- Attended the Miss Holmen pageant
- Taught dance at Get Up and Go Day at the La Crosse Public Library
- Top 11 Semi-Finalist at Miss Wisconsin 2013
- Spoke on air with Bob Schmidt at Today’s Talk 1490, La Crosse Radio Group
- Sang the National Anthem at La Crosse Loggers Baseball games
- Volunteered at the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day, Wisconsin Rapids
- Judged the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association Auction, La Crosse
- Attended the Emerald Ball benefiting CMNH, La Crosse
- Ambassador for the annual Festival Foods Grandad Half Marathon
- Spoke with students at Cathedral Elementary School about platform, La Crosse
- Attended the Miss Wisconsin Central pageant, Portage
- Rang bells for the Salvation Army
- Volunteered for YMCA Jingle Bell, New Year’s Resolution, and Valentine’s Heart Throb 5K Run/Walks
- Spoke with classrooms at Immanuel Lutheran School, Wisconsin Rapids
- Participated in the Rotary Lights Christmas parade, La Crosse
- Participated in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Wisconsin, Wisconsin Rapids and La Crosse
- Attended the Miss Wisconsin Rapids pageant
- Volunteered with the Emerson Elementary School safe walk to school program, La Crosse
- Partnered with the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 Campaign
- Teamed up with Gundersen Lutheran Health System’s “Minutes In Motion,” campaign
- Volunteered at the 2012 Children’s Miracle Network Telethon
See my Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest 2012 farewell video here: https://youtu.be/qRh2944Px1k