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.
A group of friends joins in with the rest of the crowd by holding their cups in the air to make a toast while singing along to the traditional “Ein Prosit” song. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
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.
Welcome to Wurstfest! Do you speak fun? A diverse crowd enters the fairgrounds to enjoy a day filled with sausage, music, and a variety of other entertainment. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
All of the drink stands at Wurstfest are stocked with cups so that festivalgoers can share their pitchers of beer – or have an easier time keeping it all to themselves. Photo by: Erin Griffin
Festivalgoers watch the Chardon Polka Band perform at the Biergarten in the Stelzenplatz. Photo by: Erin Griffin
The Chardon Polka Band captivates the crowd by encouraging them to sing along to familiar songs. Jake Kouwe, the lead singer of the band, started to play the accordion at age fourteen.
Gator the Clown stops to pose for a picture with some kids while parents snap photos. Gator can be seen roaming around the festival sporting a smile and cracking jokes. Photo by: Erin Griffin
There is a lot of commotion and excitement in the Das Grosse Tent (big tent) on weekend nights. Festivalgoers mingle and interact with one another creating an inviting environment. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
On Saturday night, a group of friends built a beer pitcher tower in the Das Grosse Zelt (big tent). A crowd formed to see how high the tower would stack. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
Wurstfest offers many different kinds of domestic, imported and craft beers for purchase. A pitcher of Shiner Oktoberfest and pitcher of Coors Light are shown here. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
Simon Esteva dances and cheers along with his friends to the “Ein Prosit” song in the Das Grosse Tent (big tent) Saturday Night. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
A volunteer at the New Braunfels Rotary Club booth prepares potato pancakes for a growing line of hungry costumers. This vendor is one of the most popular – and encourages its costumers to add applesauce to go along with their wurst and pancakes. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
Here is a close look at the New Braunfels Rotary Club’s potato pancakes, wurst, and applesauce. It tasted delicious. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
The Wurstfest Orquestra plays in the Wursthalle and invites people to polka dance along to their music. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
A volunteer serves a pitcher of beer at one of the drink booths in the Wursthalle. This particular bar offers beer as well as wine and soft drinks. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
Steve Schulz (OPA) and Don Brawner (Kleine OPA) are part of the Wurstfest Organization and volunteer at the yearly festival. Their different color vests signify their ranking in the organization. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
The merry go round is a popular attraction for children at Wurstfest’s carnival. At night the lights of all the attractions create a pretty glow and add to the fun atmosphere of the festival. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
In the Marktplatz there are 36 vendors with different types of wurst (German sausage). Wurst is commonly served on a stick with bread rolls attached to the bottom. Photo by: Erin Griffin
Another popular food item in the Marktplatz are the turkey legs. Eager festivalgoers stand in long lines in order to enjoy this treat. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
A polka band called 3rd Generation performs Sunday evening in the Das Kleine Zelt (Little Tent). Many couples and families dance around to end their evening on a happy note. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
A couple stops at the hat vendor in the Marktplatz to purchase a silly hat. Many festivalgoers can be seen wearing silly hats with themes ranging from drunken chickens to Vikings. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
A man watching the Chardon Polka Band is seen sporting a tyrolean hat, a traditional Bavarian piece that is normally paired with lederhosen. Photo by: Erin Griffin
A vendor in the Marktplatz sells collectible beer steins. The booth has over 200 unique and authentic steins made of different kinds of stoneware. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
The Das Grosse Zelt in the evening is full of movement and excitement. This Sunday evening the crowd is waiting for the next polka band to start performing. Photo by: Erin MacInerney
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.
Click here to learn more about the history of Wurstfest
“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!)