It was the best of times, it was the wurst of times at this year’s 52nd annual Wurstfest, a celebration of all things German.
By: Morgan Bridges, Erin Griffin, Erin MacInerney, Jamie Pross
(Click to listen to the Chardon Polka Band perform live in the Stelzenplatz Biergarten at Wurstfest)
(Click to watch a first-person view of the festival)
NEW BRAUNFELS- Sprechen sie fun? Hint: say yes!
Don’t worry, you needn’t speak German to enjoy the revelry of Wurstfest, the 10-day salute to sausage.
But if you really want to delve into the culture that makes up this Oktoberfest- inspired event, knowing a few phrases will help you to fit in among the lederhosen clad festival-goers.
The small town of New Braunfels, Texas welcomes over 100,000 visitors to the festival each November.
The smell of kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), strudel, schnitzel, and other dishes you may have a hard time pronouncing, waft throughout the tents of the festival grounds.
For people like Sammi Guerrero, Wurstfest is an annual family tradition.
“I have been going every year since I was born,” says Guerrero. “My whole family goes at least three days out of the ten days it is held each year.”
Guerrero’s 21-year streak (or 22 if you count the time she was still in her mother’s belly) is nothing compared to her father, Roland, who has been going every year since the early 1970’s.
Roland’s father, Larry Guerrero, has been joining the family for as long as he can remember. Larry may use a walker but the minute Grammy Award-winning polka artist Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra start playing, Guerrero can’t help but get up and dance.
“Everyone loves my grandpa and when they see him dancing, they can’t help but join,” says Sammi Guerrero. “I love getting to come with him each year and watch him make people smile.”
One of the Guerrero’s favorite parts of the festival is sharing a pitcher of German lager. Roland recounts when a pitcher of beer was a dollar compared to the now almost 30 dollar pitchers being sold.
While grandpa dances to the polka music, the rest of the family heads to the biergarten, part of the newly renovated Stelzenplatz hall.
With more than 30 craft beers from all over the nation and a few specialty German beers, Wurstfest is known for drinking.
Guests make it a point to collect as many plastic beer pitchers as they can down, and that crashing sound you just heard? It was a pyramid of pitchers stacked up falling to the ground, a common sight among the beer hall.
Despite the vast alcohol consumption, Wurstfest Associations members make sure that the fest is centered around good family fun.
Another important part of the festival are the traditional German clothes, lederhosen worn by men and dirndl’s worn by women.
“A lot of people want to be dressed up for the event,” says Paula Kater, owner of the Kuckuck’s Nest in Fredericksburg, Texas. “Every year, sales pick up and people want to get more and more into it. Even the younger generations want to dress up.”
Kater emphasizes that the outfits she dresses her customers in are not costumes, but authentic clothing of her heritage.
“Every one is an original straight from Germany,” says Kater.
Kater was impressed to find such a large German influence in the Texas Hill Country when she arrived here from Ludwigshafen, Germany 15 years ago.
She travels all over the nation providing outfits for people attending Okterberfest events but says Wurstfest has always been her favorite.
“Wurstfest is one of the biggest,” says Kater. “It is the elite of all of them, even the ones up north.”
(A supplementary video from Wurstfest. How to sing one of the favorite songs, Ein Prosit!)