Ms. Oktoberfest crowned
Ashley Jones never really considered herself pageant material, having just graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University.
But the Estero resident made her first attempt count as she bested four others to be crowned Ms. Oktoberfest on Saturday at the 30th annual pageant at the German American Social Club.
Jones will be the face of the Oktoberfest activities, taking part in all the promotions for it and will reign over the event. She will also be at the two Gartenfests this winter as well as other big events at the club, and participate in the annual Edison Festival of Light Parade in Fort Myers.
“She will also promote friendship and further educate people on the German culture and get everybody involved in the club,” said Teresa Kohl, who organized the pageant.
“Ms. Oktoberfest is a big tradition here. It kicks off the entire season. We have to have her dress ready and make appearances for us so we need to have her ready,” said Steve Eichner, co-chair of Oktoberfest and the traditional host of the pageant. “The past Ms. Oktoberfests are very active in the club and they always come back for this. Once she becomes Ms. Oktoberfest, she joins the family.”
The pageant traditionally kicks off the Oktoberfest season at the GASC, which culminates at the annual Oktoberfest the final two weekends in October, which has become one of the biggest events in Cape Coral.
Jones is originally from Tampa and came to Southwest Florida to attend college and earn a degree in marketing. She worked at Gartner briefly and is now looking for other opportunities here and in Tampa.
Being in a pageant, however, was not part of the plan.
“I never considered myself a pageant girl. But new challenges are new opportunities.” Jones said. “My friend Sarah (Kiernan) convinced me to do it with her. I got to meet some of the members and fell in love with the community.”
Jones faced strong competition, with all of her competitors having deep German roots.
Belinda Reaves, 37, a 30-year resident of Cape Coral, said her family has been heavily involved in the GASC since moving here in the 1980s.
“I grew up here and have been to nearly all the Oktoberfests. It’s a fun festival and I’m here to represent my family and the members of the club,” Reaves said, who competed for the crown 11 years ago. “I feel confident tonight, so we’ll see what happens.”
Ringing in the new also means out with the old. Cheyenne Schwind turned over her crown to Jones, saying her reign was very rewarding and fun.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve had. It surpassed anything I thought possible. The family of the club welcomes you with open arms, they teach you the traditional songs and dances,” Schwind said. “I’ve been coming to Oktoberfest since I was little and my grandparents are from Germany, so I was familiar with German culture.”
Jones said she is overwhelmed to be named the face and spokeswoman for the annual party, especially against competition that had significant ties to Germany.
“I definitely am looking forward to getting to know the community better and to be Ms. Oktoberfest. I’m really excited and looking forward to it,” Jones said.