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Wurstfest is proud to be the great festival it is today. From humble beginnings, we’ve grown into an annual bash which draws thousands of visitors a day to the dedicated Wurstfest Festival Grounds. A story like ours is long, and the achievements are due in no small part to the visionaries, volunteers and community leaders who have helped us prosper over the years.
|Ed Grist, the city meat inspector, created a festival to honor sausage|
|Events are scheduled for every night of Wurst Week|
|Wurstfest moved to the Wursthalle in Landa Park|
|Festival expanded to ten days; Myron Floren of the Lawrence Welk Band made his first appearance|
|Biergarten, security facilities and restrooms added|
|Wurstfest grounds tripled in size with the purchase 3.1 acres and a long-term lease on another 4.5 acres|
|Wurstfest acquired Jerome Nowotny’s “World’s Largest Beer Bottle Collection” consisting of over 15,000 beer vessels, many more than 100 years old|
|Temporary postal station in the Marktplatz facilitated 25th Anniversary postal cancellations|
|Larger, clear-span entertainment tents were situated at each end of the Marktplatz|
|Wurstfest welcomed four-time Grammy Award-winning polka artist Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra|
|More than 6,000 bottles from the Nowotny Bottle Collection were finally put on public display in the newly opened “Spass Haus”|
|Kinderhalle opened, featuring special children’s entertainment in cooperation with the New Braunfels Parks and Recreation Department|
|In celebration of our 50th year, Graf Johannes von Oppersdorf, a direct descendant of Prince Solms, joined us for the festivities.|
|Stelzenhaus opened to celebrate festival’s 50th Anniversary|
|Online admission and drink ticket purchases added to wurstfest.com|
|Stelzenplatz opened to offer additional food, beverages, music and shopping|
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE WURST OF TIMES
Proclaimed by the Mayor for the first time in 1961, the festival honoring this most delectable of local foods was a one-day affair held on Saturday, climaxing a week of activity featuring sausage dishes on menus of local cafes and specials on sausage products in local meat markets and grocery stores.
The first year it was “Sausage Festival”, later “Wurst Week”, and finally “WURSTFEST”. What he thought would be a typical small town festival was conceived by Ed A. Grist, who was a practicing veterinarian and city meat inspector. At the time, no one anticipated the phenomenal success this festival would achieve.
The first WURSTFEST drew a crowd of 2,000 sausage-hungry visitors attracted by literally world-wide publicity. There were feature stories on this unique celebration in newspapers in Canada and Germany, as well as most major cities in the United States. Although scheduled to take place in Landa Park, threatening weather caused the first festival to move to the National Guard Armory.
The festival went “big-time” in 1963, moving downtown to the Rathskeller (a burned-out department store basement, now the New Braunfels Utilities parking lot) with an event scheduled every night of Wurst Week.
Attendance tripled in 1964, reaching 30,000 and the visitors consumed 5,000 pounds of sausage. In ’66, the pressure on the Rathskeller was so great (an estimated 35,000 attended that year) that it became necessary to move to larger quarters. Over five tons of sausage disappeared from food booths that year.
WURSTFEST broke in a new site in ’67 … half of the present Wursthalle … and attendance jumped to 40,000. In ’68, the entire Wursthalle, having approximately 33,000 square feet and seats for over 2,000 people, was leased in time for 56,000 visitors to enjoy the newly expanded ten-day run. The festival had its first big-time entertainer in ’68 when Myron Floren of the Lawrence Welk TV show appeared.
In ’69, balmy weather throughout the ten days of WURSTFEST contributed to a record attendance of 75,000. Food served from 48 booths included Wurst Tacos, Sauerkraut Pizzas, Corn on the Cob, Shish-ka-bobs, Wurst-ka-bobs and all kinds of sausage. In ’74, the Biergarten was added along with new security facilities and restrooms.
1978 was a benchmark year with the purchase of the Dittlinger Feed Mill property, and a sublease on a portion of the LCRA property. This tripled the size of the WURSTFEST grounds and entertainment area for the visitors. A grounds admission charge and strict policies, along with improved facilities, removed any doubt that the festival would continue to be a family-oriented event. WURSTFEST was listed among the top attractions in the world for the month of November, 1978.
Proceeds from ’79 through ’81 were used for beautification and land development in Landa Park. $120,000 was spent on landscaping, erosion control and traffic flow improvement at the entrance to Landa Park. $600,000 was spent by WURSTFEST in ’80 and ’81 for erosion control and landscaping along the Comal River.
In 1982, WURSTFEST acquired Jerome Nowotny’s “World’s Largest Beer Bottle Collection”. The collection consist of over 17,000 bottles. A portion of this treasure, along with other historical festival memorabilia, is now on display in Der Spass Haus.
In 1985, WURSTFEST celebrated its 25th Anniversary with Myron Floren and the University of Texas Longhorn Band opening the festival. A postal cancellation was designed to commemorate the 25th Anniversary celebration and a temporary postal station was located in the Marktplatz.
In ’86, WURSTFEST opened its administrative offices on the grounds in the Kleinehalle building and an information booth was constructed at the base of the tower.
In 1987, larger, clear-span entertainment tents were situated at each end of the Marktplatz. The size of Das Grosse Zelt (Big Tent) was doubled, and the new arrangement was well received. A 32-piece brass band from Bonbaden, Germany, performed to the delight of the crowds and Myron Floren celebrated his 20th anniversary as featured entertainer. Favorable weather for nine of the ten days and widespread media coverage contributed to increased attendance and WURSTFEST was rated in the top 100 events in North America by the American Bus Association.
National media attention focused on the ’89 WURSTFEST as the reunification of Germany began with the opening of the Berlin Wall. Earlier that week, members of the Texas Accordion Association gathered – bringing instruments as unique as the individuals themselves – and joined family members, special guests and hundreds of faithful fans in a salute to Myron Floren on his birthday.
The 1990 festival introduced the Schorsch Pfeiler Band from Munich and welcomed four-time Grammy Award Winner Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra to WURSTFEST.
THE FESTIVAL SUCCESS STORY CONTINUES…
1998 was quite a year. On October 17, just thirteen days prior to the festival opening, floodwaters devastated New Braunfels. More than twenty inches of rain caused the Comal and Guadalupe rivers to rise to levels never before recorded. Much of the property owned by the Wurstfest Association along the Comal River was underwater, and the enhancements to the Gate #1 area, completed in ’96, were destroyed. Festival officials immediately surveyed the damage and declared the festival would continue as planned.
Many were amused by such optimism, but members and local businesses pitched in and prepared the grounds for opening day. Those who attended found it hard to believe that such damage had actually occurred! Myron Floren visited with his loyal fans by phone from his home in California as he recuperated from surgery. Die Froehliche Dorfmusik returned for their second visit to Texas and Wurstfest, and a progressive young group from New York, Die Schlauberger, made their first appearance at Wurstfest. Their modern and traditional alpine music was a marvelous addition to favorite entertainers such as Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra, Alpenfest, Sauerkrauts and others. Rainy weather five out of the ten days slowed attendance, however organizers declared this festival one of the most successful ever!
Visitors contributed thousands of dollars to flood victims and Wurstfest matched every penny contributed to flood relief during the month of November. A total of $50,000 was turned over to the Community Service Center by the Wurstfest Association to aid local flood victims.
In 1999, festival patrons enjoyed the finest in Alpine and Bavarian style entertainment. Clear skies, mild temperatures, good food and a strong line up of popular performers proved to be a winning combination for the 39th annual Wurstfest. The ’99 festival earned its place in history as the top income producer for the ‘90s!
WURSTFEST was the recipient of a gift of a one-half acre piece of property on Landa Street from JPMorgan/Chase Bank in 2002, which allowed the organization to increase patron parking.
2005 saw the beginning of significant change in the park area as the LCRA power plant sold to an Austin developer and plans were announced to construct loft and garden apartments on the large tract of land at the entrance to Landa Park. Wurstfest relocated existing volleyball courts and constructed a 105-space parking lot on Elizabeth Street for the City of New Braunfels, donated $15,000 to the McKenna Children’s Museum project and celebrated 45 years of festival success.
In 2006, millions of television viewers got a taste of Wurstfest when ABC’s Good Morning America Show came to the festival on Opening Day. More than 3,000 local residents arrived at the grounds by 5:30 a.m. that morning to participate in the live nationwide broadcast.
The 2007 festival introduced Kinderhalle, a special children’s entertainment area, in cooperation with the New Braunfels Parks and Recreation Department. Opa Gordon Zunker announced his retirement as bandleader of the Cloverleaf Orchestra and was honored for his 47 years on stage at Wurstfest.
In 2008, Kinderhalle received the Regions 5 and 7 Lone Star Programming award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society.
The largest day in festival history was recorded on Saturday, November 7, 2009.
To help celebrate our 50th year, Wurstfest was honored to welcome Graf Johannes von Oppersdorf –a direct descendant of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, our city’s founder.
The following year, we opened a brand new building along the banks of the beautiful Comal River. The Stelzenhaus offers a large dance floor with air-conditioned comfort, an additional bar, indoor toilets, and plenty of seating.
A newly redesigned website greeted fans in 2013, and with it came the ability to purchase admission and drink tickets online, download coupons and schedules, and watch educational and entertaining videos. A push to social media was also made, allowing fans to connect with Wurstfest year round via Facebook and Twitter.
2014 saw the expansion of the grounds with the opening of the exciting new Stelzenplatz, nestled between the Stelzenhaus and the river. This new venue ushered in an additional live music stage, bringing the total to five, as well as additional midway rides, food trucks, and unique shopping opportunities. Another popular addition was the beautiful biergarten.
The new Stelzenplatz was home to our inaugural Craft Beer Festival in May of 2015, allowing guests a chance to rekindle the Wurstfest spirit during the off season. The festival, which featured live music, great food, and dozens of unique craft beers, was so popular that tickets sold out!
Wurstfest is a non-profit corporation designed to promote local commerce, especially through tourism, and preserve the community’s heritage. It provides a vehicle for local civic organizations to raise large amounts of money for a wide variety of community projects. Wurstfest is a special event that visitors can attend, enjoy themselves, and leave gratified, knowing that their expenditures will go for worthwhile projects.
Willkommen zum WURSTFEST!
Prosit, und hab’ Spaß!