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Oktoberfest button preview

Mary Schill, left, stands in front of her winning 2019 Oktoberfest button design with 2018 Frau Karen Keil and Festmaster Mike Keil. 

It’s almost tradition for Mary Schill to make a mad dash to turn in her Oktoberfest button designs.

In 2001, Schill scrambled to make the 7 p.m. final drop for next-day mail.

The next year, she found herself speeding down the highway to make deadline, catching the flashing lights of a squad car in her rearview mirror. Luckily, the officer had a good chuckle when Schill rolled down her window gripping her button entry rather than her driver’s license.

The good-natured officer assured her she’d win. He was right, and this year, the La Crosse and Wisconsin Rapids resident continued her winning streak, unusually punctual to boot.

“I had it in with two hours to spare,” Schill said. “Which is a miracle for me.”

Schill, whose designs were selected in 2001, 2002 and 2005, stood with 2018 Festmaster Mike Keil and Frau Karen Keil as her 2019 design was officially unveiled Thursday afternoon. The public had its first peek at the design during the evening’s Corks and Forks scholarship fundraiser.

Keeping with the theme of “fest with das beste,” the 59th annual commemorative button features a map of Wisconsin, a pair of jovial dancers, chalet and maple leaves blustering in the wind, all set against a deep blue background.

“She did a wonderful job on this button,” the festmaster said. “She’s had very good luck in the past — this is her fourth time winning — so kudos to her. I think it’s absolutely gorgeous.”

Schill, who experienced her first Oktoberfest as a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse design student in the 1980s, entered button designs seven times before her 2001 win.

Her 2002 winning design, featuring the U.S. and German flags in the shape of a maple leaf, was a personal favorite, and this year the graphic designer and photographer crafted two diverse entries, winning with a combination of past ideas she had scrapped.

Creating a button that will be a collector item for years to come is an opportunity to give back to the community in an artistic fashion, Schill says. While still six months away, she has Oktoberfest on her mind year-round.

“It’s fun and festivity,” Schill said. “It’s a sign of the end of summer, and then it’s winter season and everyone goes home and (shuts) their doors and we see each other again in the spring.”

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Emily Pyrek can be reached at


General assignment reporter

Emily Pyrek covers human interest stories, local events and anything involving dogs for the La Crosse Tribune. She is always interested in story ideas and can be contacted at

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