By CHUCK BALLARO
Emily Zercher said she wanted to be a role model and represent her fellow German Americans if she won Saturday's Ms. Oktoberfest pageant at a jam-packed German American Social Club.
Emily Zercher is the German-American Social Club’s 2013 Ms. Oktoberfest.
For the next year, she'll be able to do it after beating five other competitors for the coveted crown. She will become the face of Oktoberfest in October, as well as Gartenfest, and represent the German-American community.
Zercher said she looks forward to it.
"I'm excited for Oktoberfest in a few months. It's all the events, the German culture and being able to drink German beer and live among German-Americans like me," Zercher said. "It's going to be a good time, a lot to look forward to."
Zercher didn't win with sheer looks. She had to answer two questions (one that everyone had to answer and one pulled out of a hat), and though she didn't win any points by the way she handled four steins filled with beer, it was enough for her to win.
Zercher couldn't believe it when last year's Ms. Oktoberfest and new mom Brooke Callahan placed the tiara on her head and danced with club president Hubert Prem.
"I was surprised because there are some girls I thought would win," Zercher said. "It came to the point where we all just let loose and had fun. I hope that resonated."
Ms. Oktoberfest has been named since 1991, and several former winners returned for the occasion, one of them a dentist.
"Both my parents are from Germany so I always grew up with the culture, so I thought it would be great to be Ms. Oktoberfest," said Patty Bachmann, the 2006 winner. "I got to meet a lot of new friends, do the Edison Parade, but the best part was doing Oktoberfest. It was the best time of my life."
Ms. Oktoberfest is open to any woman between the ages of 21 and 45. She can be married, divorced, a mother, etc. and does not have to be of German descent nor speak German, according to Teresa Kohl, organizer of the event.
All she has to do is to fulfill her commitment to Oktoberfest, the Edison Parade, Gartenfest, and be the representative to area German-Americans.
"It brings awareness in the community that Oktoberfest is coming. It's a nice thing for members to enjoy to have a young lady represent them," Kohl said. "We try to make it fun for the girls."
The judges, who included former Cape Coral Mayor Eric Feichthaler, are not members of the club, but they had a difficult decision among the six women, some of whom they were familiar with, seeing as they had tried for the title more than once.
For Rachel Hazelwood, it was her third attempt at the crown. And for the third straight year she was the bridesmaid, meaning she would become Ms. Oktoberfest if Zercher can't fulfill her obligations.
"They treat you like a queen, even if you don't win. You get to dance and drink and have a good time," Hazelwood said, who fire dances and cheers for the Florida Tarpons in her spare time. "I wouldn't come back if I didn't have a blast."
The other contestants included Ashley Kato, Allie Springer, Elizebeth Weber and Kelsey Weber (no relation).
To Zercher, it's more than about the beer and brats. It's a chance to represent her people. Her grandfather came from Germany and her father is German.
"I want to project a friendly image. Oktoberfest is a friendly event that brings the community together," Zercher said. "I want to project a friendly, confident image, and I look forward to being in that tent in that fancy dress."