One thing you can't say about Petra Besenhard is that she isn't authentic.
That is what the German-American Club is going to get after she was named Ms. Oktoberfest Saturday during the annual pageant at the club, topping seven others to win the crown.
Besenhard, now a Cape Coral resident, was born and raised in Bavaria, moving to Southwest Florida just three years ago from Rosenheim. And while her heritage wasn't the only reason she won, it certainly didn't hurt.
Ms. Oktoberfest Petra Besenhard
"I was so excited. I really didn't see it coming. I was nervous, then I was excited," Besenhard said after last year's Ms. Oktoberfest, Emily Zercher, placed the sash and tiara on her head before club President Hubert Prem paraded her around the hall and shared the traditional first dance with her.
Besenhard, 23, moved here to attend school at FGCU to major in economics and psychology. A senior, she said she wants to go to graduate school and get her Ph.D. in economics.
She said having grown up in the culture will make her the perfect representative of the club for the next year.
"I feel I can share so much of it with people and be authentic about it," Besenhard said. "I don't have to act. It's who I am and I love my culture."
Sandra Ruheand was first runner-up (after one woman finished the bridesmaid for three straight years) and Amanda Dusick finished third.
The other contestants were Amy Feaster, Kelsey Weber, Nikita Geier, Ashley Hammons and Lorie Vanwinkle.
The contestants started work on Thursday getting ready for the pageant, with former Ms. Oktoberfests helping them out, such as 2004 winner Kimberly Schlachta.
"I help the girls get accustomed to the pageant, walking them through the process, keeping them relaxed and makeing them feel welcome," Schlachta said. "Ms. Oktoberfest was a great experience, so many opportunities to meet people, and 10 years later, I'm still involved with the club."
As Ms. Oktoberfest, Besenhard must fulfill her commitment to Oktoberfest, the Edison Parade, Gartenfest, and be the representative to area German-Americans.
It is a very important, but very fun job, according to Ms. Oktoberfest chairman Tom Semean. As far as he knows, they've never gotten one wrong.
"They will represent everything the German Club does for our carious functions. These girls are our ambassadors," Semean said. "All our girls have been excellent."
Teresa Kohl, who runs the pageant, said it was an exciting evening, with a pageant that numerous girls could have won.
"It was difficult for the judges to choose, but they always make the right choice and I'm looking forward to working with the new girl and continuing the heritage of our club," Kohl said.
Ms. Oktoberfest, which started in 1991, 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.