Opas spill the sausage about the city’s 10-day German-themed celebration
To say that Wurstfest is a big deal in New Braunfels is an understatement. In the span of this 10-day tribute to the city’s German heritage, more than 200,000 people visit the Wurstfest grounds along the Comal River, venturing from food stalls to music tents to beer halls and carnival attractions.
While many love Wurstfest, even the most dedicated fans may not know everything about this salute to sausage. We asked a group of Wurstfest Opas to divulge some little-known secrets of Wurstfest.
Let’s start with the basics: what’s an Opa? Opa is German for “grandfather.” At Wurstfest, the Opas are the ubiquitous group of gentlemen in red vests and traditional German felt hats, typically covered in commemorative pins and buttons, wearing lederhosen and long socks. They are the backbone of the festival, working to help plan and execute Wurstfest and serving as ambassadors in the community.
One Opa rises above them all. Grosse Opa is the grand poohbah of Wurstfest, appointed each year by the president of the Wurstfest Association of New Braunfels, the non-profit organization behind the festival. You can spot Grosse Opa by the oversized bright blue feather in his hat. Stop and ask for a button if you see him on the grounds during Wurstfest!
With the Opas’ knowledge of the festival’s inner workings – how the sausage is made, so to speak – we asked the Opas for the inside scoop on Wurstfest. Here’s what they told us:
1. Don’t miss the opening ceremony.
Many people time their Wurstfest adventures to take advantage of weekends or catch a favorite band. But the ceremony that launches the event is worth a visit in itself, says Opa Keith Wersterfer.
“The opening ceremonies and the tapping of the keg is a can’t-miss attraction,” he said. “It really sets the tone for the festival.”
On opening day, Friday Nov. 3, gates open to the public at 4 p.m. and the ceremony takes place at 5:30 p.m. in the Wursthalle. The party officially kicks off with all the grandeur you’d expect, including the first ceremonial beers, the “biting of the sausage,” and some rousing live polka music.
“If you want to experience true Gemütlichkeit, this is the moment to do it,” said Opa Dan Tharp. “The feeling of friendliness, good cheer and warmth is incredible.”
2. See how it all began.
Most visitors plan on eating sausage at Wurstfest. But you can also watch Opas making sausage in the traditional German way, using the methods the city’s first settlers used.
Sausage-making demonstrations are a must-see attraction at the festival, according to Grosse Opa Rob Johnson. For the German immigrants who settled New Braunfels, making sausage was a vital way to preserve meat and ensure plentiful food for months. In fact, Wurstfest started in 1961 to honor local sausage makers.
3. Be a permanent part of Wurstfest.
If you see crowds slowly strolling through the Marktplatz looking down at the ground, don’t be alarmed – they’re probably looking for the brick with their family’s name on it.
Wurstfest fans can once again purchase commemorative bricks customized with a family or business name and installed as a permanent part of the Wurstfest grounds. The bricks will be available for purchase in the fall of 2023 at wurstfest.com.
The program began to offset the costs of rebuilding the Marktplatz and repairing the Wursthalle after a fire damaged both structures in 2019. Bricks are on display in the grand entrance to the Wursthalle in the center of the Marktplatz.
4. Dress smart.
Many festivalgoers get into the spirit of German culture with traditional Bavarian costumes, from lederhosen and knee socks to dirndl dresses. Authentic German hats are available at Wurstfest, along with the silly hats that are also a festival staple.
But 2023 Grosse Opa Rob Johnson has sensible advice for the most important part of your outfit.
“Wear comfortable shoes, because the Wurstfest grounds cover about fourteen acres,” he said.
5. 10 days of sausage leads to a year of good deeds.
One of the best parts of Wurstfest is the variety of delicious food available. But the goodness lasts after the sausages, potato pancakes and pork chops are long gone. That’s because most of the vendors at Wurstfest are non-profit organizations raising money to serve the community year-round. More than 20 local non-profit organizations fundraise during the festival by selling food, drink and retail goods. For many organizations, Wurstfest is their biggest fundraising event of the year.
“I don’t think most attendees realize how many non-profits operate booths at Wurstfest and how important their booths are to their organizations and our community,” Johnson said.
You’re helping the community with every bite, so go hungry and eat up!
Book lodging, find restaurants, and plan your Wurstfest weekend adventure #InNewBraunfels today at playinnewbraunfels.com/.