Good Eats 2011
Wurstfest

Inside the ultimate sausage festival: Sexy dirndl dresses, short lederhosen, fake mustaches & beer goggles

Inside the ultimate sausage festival: Sexy dirndl dresses, short lederhosen, fake mustaches & beer goggles

Wurstfest mustache
That's a mustachioed me, next to our growing towers of cups and pitchers. Courtesy of Whitney Radley
Revelers wearing mustaches at Wurstfest in New Braunfels
My sister and my mom make friends with a stranger in Wursthalle. Prosit! Photo by Bailey Radley
Wurstfest mustache
Revelers wearing mustaches at Wurstfest in New Braunfels

It's more than halfway through the week and I'm still recovering from last weekend. It's a blessing and a bummer that Wurstfest season only comes around once a year.

What started as a one-day-only Sausage Festival for New Braunfels natives in 1961 has steadily grown into a 10-day "Salute to Sausage," attended by thousands from near and far — whether or not they have any German heritage to speak of, or if they even eat meat. The festival started last weekend and goes through Sunday night (Wurstfest runs from 5 p.m. to midnight Thursday and Friday, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday).

My friends and family have made the trek to New Braunfels for more than a decade, sometimes suffering the first weekend of hunting season traffic along the interstate, and ultimately ending up at an RV park across the Comal River from Wursthalle, a venue specifically dedicated to the festival.

We unpack, we hydrate, we gear up for a long weekend.

 Back across the river, tubas thump late into the night. The first sounds in the early morning are of kegs clanking, loading and unloading. 

Between carnival rides, three different stages for dancing to polka music and listening to yodelers, beer drinking and sampling of Bavarian- and Alpine-fare, boredom is impossible.

But if you do fall prey, the people watching at Wursthalle is prime. Women in dirndl dresses of the sexy or traditional style. Gents in long and short lederhosen, fashioned from leather or suede. Weird hats and sparkly wigs, sequined vests, goofy glasses. For whatever reason, our troupe's preferred costume has become the simple stick-on mustache, which never fails to confuse and/or impress.

How does a vegetarian (like myself) hang in during the meat-intensive festivities? Although you miss out on the bratwurst, the Reubens, goulash and sausage on a stick, there's roasted corn and potatoes aplenty — fried into chips, in soup or pancake form, or crispy skins with melted cheese.

Add that to vegetables (fried pickles, fried mushrooms, fried jalapeños, fried onions) and sweets (fried Oreos and funnel cakes dusted with powdered sugar), and it's a balanced meal. Your body will be starch-stuffed and shirking anything fried or battered for weeks to come, unless you offset the damage with the scenic 60-mile Wurst Ride from Austin to New Braunfels or exhaustive and vigorous rounds of the Chicken Dance.

As with all German festivals, though, the beer is really the best part. Warsteiner Dunkel tastes like dessert and is almost light enough to drink all day, but it will stain clothing if one isn't careful. The bar is stocked with Oktoberfest brews from Hofbräu, Paulaner and Shiner, as well as domestic standbys for the picky or the cautious.

The rules of the fest are simple: Wear a shirt and shoes. Bring plenty of cash. Try not to spill beer on the dance floor. Stay until you can't eat or drink anymore or the police kick you out — whichever comes first.

After a full day, we return to camp with an enviable tower of plastic souvenir pitchers and a stack of cups, full and warm from the food and the alcohol.

Back across the river, tubas thump late into the night. The first sounds in the early morning are of kegs clanking, loading and unloading.

Don't let the misnomer deter you. Wurstfest is arguably the best.