Photo by Will van Overbeek

It was a sad year for sausage when, in 2020, the gigantic New Braunfels German food, beer, and music festival Wurstfest was canceled.

But in addition to the long list of events that were sidelined due to COVID-19, Wurstfest had another challenge to overcome: a fire at the end of the November 2019 event destroyed a Marketplatz building for vendors and damaged the main Wursthalle. Before the decision to cancel the fest for COVID reasons, OPA, the 297-member volunteer arm of the Wurstfest Association of New Braunfels, had been working hard with contractors to finish construction in time for the next fest. But it was not to be.

“We thought maybe the building project would run a little long, but it ended up being the pandemic that kept us from having the 2020 festival,” says Dan Tharp, director of the association. If there was a silver lining to the devastating 2019, he says, it was that it gave organizers more time to expand the $12 million construction project and make even more improvements to the Wurstfest grounds before 2021’s event, which runs Nov. 5 through Nov. 15.

From Left: Sausage-on-a-stick; pork-chop-on-a-stick; apple strudel from Texas’ oldest bakery, Naegelin’s Bakery in New Braunfels; and the Rueben Taschen, a new food offering at this year’s Wurstfest. Photo by Kamal Heikal.

The 60th iteration, a “10-Day Salute to Sausage,” features the favorites offerings that have drawn about 200,000 attendees each year—smoked sausage on sticks, carnival rides, multiple stages of mostly polka music acts from around the world, and more “Chicken Dances” than you can shake a tail feather at. But new for 2021 are revamped areas for food, drinks, costumes, and souvenirs, more bars and eating sections spread throughout the grounds, and a new spot filled with commemorative bricks that were sold to help fund the rebuilding. Bricks with the names of patrons will be sold at Wurstfest for $100 and $250.

As far as food goes, in addition to staples such as potato cakes, strudel, and pork chop-on-a-stick, this year’s new star may be the Rueben Taschen, a pastrami on pita rye with American cheese, sauerkraut, and sauce. It’ll be available from the Rotary Club at one of the 23 booths from nonprofits at this year’s festival. (Having tried it at a press preview event last month, I can say it’s a welcome, savory addition to the Wurstfest menu.)

Once you’ve danced and dined, you can learn to make pork links at one of the sausage-making demonstrations, take in this year’s Wurstfest play, “Scooby-Wurst” at Circle Arts Theatre, or participate in Masskrugstemmen, a bierstein-holding competition.

Last year may have been the worst year for Wurstfest; 2021 might prove to be its best.

Wurstfest Pro Tips

As someone who has attended many a Wurstfest, I’ve learned a thing or two about making the most of this event. For instance, Saturday nights are crazy at Wurstfest; if you’re leery of huge crowds, you can attend free each night Monday through Thursday or visit on BOGO ticket Sundays, 2 for $20. Attendance after 3 p.m. on Nov. 15 is free to all to close the fest. The lines for entry, food, and beer are much shorter at those times, too. Tickets for admission are $20, cash only at the door, or sold online in advance for $18.

The five-sausages-on-a-stick plus roll paired with the bread pudding from New Braunfels Smokehouse will make you a Wurstfest convert.

Don’t miss the marketplace area near the main entrance. Easy to overlook, it’s in the Stelzenplatz building area and features additional vendor booths, food trucks, craft beers, and rides.

Beer, wine, soft drinks, and water require drink tickets to purchase. You can buy them in advance online.

A previous version of this article stated that Wurstfest’s annual attendance was 100,000. We have updated the article with the correct number of 200,000. Texas Highways regrets the error.

The September 2022 cover of Texas Highways: Visual Wonders


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