If you have heard of the once-small town of New Braunfels, Texas, you may know it for the world-famous waterpark, Schlitterbahn, or for being home to two of the best tubing rivers in Texas. However, New Braunfels has more to offer tourists than a few fun places to cool off in the summer. Every year, in the early fall, locals and tourists from around the world gather to pay tribute to the German heritage of the town in a 10-day salute to sausage and beer, called Wurstfest. Today Wurstfest brings in over 200,000 visitors and the festival grounds include over 4 acres of land in central New Braunfels, but the beginnings of the event were much humbler.
How it all Started:
The very first Wurstfest took place in 1961 and was created by Ed A. Grist, a local meat inspector and veterinarian. Originally, the celebration was called “Sausage Festival” and it consisted of a single-day event, on a Saturday, which preceded a week of special sausage menus from local cafes and deals on sausage at local markets. Right off the bat, the event drew international attention and was largely successful. Eventually, the name changed to “Wurst Week” and finally “Wurstfest”, as it is known today. Every year the celebration brings in more and more visitors, causing several location changes throughout the years. By 1968 the festival had expanded to the 10-day tribute that it is today and found its permanent residence right off of the Comal river in a building named Wursthalle.
As Wurstfest continued to grow over the years, profits from the event were put back into the New Braunfels community. Wurstfest matched money raised for local flood victims, gave money to beautify the park, and donated to the children’s museum. In 2016, Wustfest became the owner of over 4 acres of land that the festival sits on today. In 2019, though, tragedy struck the community when a fire broke out and destroyed most of the festival grounds. While no time was wasted in reconstructing the beloved home to sausage and beer lovers, the Covid-19 outbreak caused Wurstfest to be canceled for the first time in its history in 2020. However, the cancellation did allow Wurstfest officials to fully complete the renovations of the grounds and by 2021 the event was back in full swing. With carnival rides, domestic and imported beers, live entertainment, and lots and lots of sausage, Wurstfest has become a cornerstone of the New Braunfels culture. The nonprofit is dedicated to promoting local commerce through tourism and preserving the German heritage of the town. All of the booths are run by local businesses, nonprofit organizations, and charities and the profits from the event greatly impact these organizations’ ability to do good for the community. Not only is Wurstfest a great time to spend with friends and family, but it also greatly benefits the residents of New Braunfels.
My Experience as a “Lokal”:
Growing up in New Braunfels, I attended Wurstfest almost every year and I can honestly say that it is a great time for all ages. As a young child I enjoyed the carnival rides and competing in games with my siblings. As a teenager, Wurstfest was spent creating strong memories with friends and giving back by volunteering with the Communities in School booths. Now, as a young adult, I enjoy shopping at the local businesses’ booths and dancing to the polka music with both friends and family. On several occasions, we have even had family friends travel from out-of-state for the event. The festival has given me many memories throughout my 20 years and it also feels good to know that supporting Wurstfest is supporting my fellow New Braunfels residents. Wurstfest is sure to be a unique and fun-filled experience that I think everyone should have.