Wurstfest: New Braunfels’ epic Bavarian bash is back

By: Mauri Elbel
November, 2021

Born and raised in New Braunfels, Wurstfest has been a fall ritual in my life for as long as I can remember. For those of us who grew up here — and for others who return annually to visit — Wurstfest is a fun-filled excuse to get your annual fill of sausage and sauerkraut, dust off your finest dirndl (or lederhosen) and share a pitcher of Oktoberfest with the friends you haven’t seen since the last festival. But if you’ve never made the pilgrimage to Wurstfest, experienced the taste of a bratwurst buried in kraut or polka danced while wearing a chicken hat, here are 10 things you should know about this epic Bavarian bash unfolding in New Braunfels from Nov. 5 until Nov. 14. 

Opa Jeff Albrecht rides the carousel with his grandson. Photo by Mauri Elbel

Wurstfest is back.

This year, Wurstfest is celebrating its 60th festival. Like most everyone, Wurstfest has had a rough recent past. On the heels of the 2019 festival, Wurstfest suffered a fire that ripped through and destroyed the historic Marktplatz building just days after the 59th annual Wurstfest wrapped up. Then, on what would have been Wurstfest’s 60th celebration in November of 2020, festivities were canceled due to the pandemic. This year, the festival is back, the renovations are complete and there’s a whole lot to look forward to. “In addition to the newly rebuilt Marktplatz following the 2019 fire, we have some exciting new additions to the grounds in celebration of our 60th annual event,” says Suzanne Herbelin, executive director of the Wurstfest Association of New Braunfels. “Guests can snap selfies with a life-size bronze Opa near the Information Booth, where a real Opa might even photobomb your shot!”

Get your annual fill of sausage at Wurstfest. Contributed

It’s all about the wurst. 

Wurstfest bills itself as the “annual 10-day salute to sausage” and there’s good reason for that. 

Each year Wurstfest serves up more than 40,000 pounds of sausage over the 10-day celebration. But there are a variety of styles and flavors on offer. For a well-rounded sample, order a Wurst kebab — a stick stacked with cheddarwurst, applewurst, bratwurst, pork and beef sausage and knackwurst. Another not-to-miss Wurstfest delicacy? The wurst-n-taschen — a grilled bratwurst nested in warm pita and piled high with sauerkraut, German mustard, and grilled onions and bell peppers.

More than 10,000 turkey legs are served up at Wurstfest each year. Photo by Mauri Elbel

But there’s more beyond the wurst.

Eat your greens at home — the fare found at this festival isn’t particularly healthy, but it’s delicious. After you’ve gotten your fill of sausage on a stick, in a pita and with a bun, check out some of the other German-inspired specialties that have been perfected over the years by nearly 40 vendors, about half of which are nonprofit organizations who reinvest profits back into the community. Festival favorites include kartoffelpuffers (potato pancakes) served with a dollop of applesauce, schnitzel on a stick, juicy marinated pork chops on a stick, pork wings with sauerkraut and German pizzas called flammkuchen (flame cake). Be sure to come hungry — there’s temptation at every corner of this food-filled festival, which serves up roughly 10,000 turkey legs each year along with typical festival foods like funnel cakes and deep-fried delights spanning fried Oreos to fried mushrooms.

Wurstfest drew a record 233,000 visitors in 2019. Photo by Jim Flynn

Wurstfest has deep roots. 

While small-town festivals come and go, this annual event has been going strong for more than a half-century. What humbly began as a one-day “sausage festival” in 1961 that drew an impressive crowd of 2,000 for the then-tiny town of New Braunfels became “Wurst Week” before evolving into Wurstfest, which drew a record 233,000 visitors in 2019 (read more about the festival’s history here). For me, it’s fun to return to see the familiar faces of Omas and Opas I’ve known since I was my own children’s ages, compete in the Wurst 5 Miler run with friends I used to run high school cross country with, and to take part in Wurstfest traditions that haven’t changed much since I was a kid.  

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There’s plenty of bier. 

Wurstfest’s main focus has always been the sausage, but hundreds of thousands of plastic cups are needed each year to help wash it all down. Fill your cups (which double as great souvenirs we use all year) with everything from nonalcoholic beverages to a wide variety of beer including German imports like Warsteiner Dunkel and Paulaner Oktoberfest, domestics and a slew of craft beers.

Grammy-nominated musician and producer Alex Meixner reigns as a Wurstfest favorite each year. Credit Jim Flynn

Music is the heartbeat of Wurstfest.

More than 40 national and international live music acts form the backbone of this festival, which has gathered the best of the best when it comes to Alpine and Bavarian-style entertainment. Make your way to one of five stage areas — Wursthalle, Das Grosse Zelt (The Big Tent), Das Kleine Zelt (The Little Tent), Stelzenhaus or Stelzenplatz — where popular performers keep the pulse of Wurstfest pumping. Festival favorites include Alex Meixner, who has been wowing Wurstfest-goers for years with his amazing accordion skills and captivating energy, the legendary Mollie B., and Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra — the multiple-Grammy-Award-winner who has remained at the top of the country’s polka scene. You can view the full lineup here: https://wurstfest.com/schedule/

Compete German-style. 

If there was an Olympic event for beer fans, Masskrugstemmen would be it. Channel your inner German to compete in this traditional Bavarian beer stein-holding endurance contest, which awards whoever can hold a 1-liter stein of beer that weighs roughly 5 pounds in their outstretched arm for the longest without spilling. Not a heavy lifter? There are polka and waltz contests, too. 

Kids will love the carnival rides at Wurstfest. Photo by Mauri Elbel

Family fun

Kids will find heaps to do at Wurstfest, but a favorite is always the carnival rides like the carousel, Ferris wheel and roller coaster. There’s also free miniature golf and special Kinderhalle entertainment and activities. Pro-tip: take the kids on weekday evenings and weekend lunch times to avoid the larger, rowdier crowds Wurstfest sees during Friday and Saturday nights.  

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Wurstfest takes place for 10 days in Nov. Credit Wurstfest

Dirndles and lederhosen are appropriate attire.

Hundreds of Opas and Omas — and a substantial number of festivalgoers — proudly parade their dirndls and lederhosen. Regular clothes will do just fine, but those feeling festive can accessorize on-site with a Wurstfest “hut” or chicken hat while the truly ambitious can purchase a full ensemble of authentic Bavarian clothing from the German import vendors in the Stelzenplatz.

Brush up on your German vocabulary.

Macht schnell (hurry up) and learn some essential German phrases before heading to Wurstfest like gemütlichkeit, the German word that sums up what Wurstfest is all about: friendliness and good cheer. Impress your friends with some German phrases while you’re at the festival by watching this video beforehand (wurstfest.com).

If You Go

Getting there:

Wurstfest is less than an hour (50 miles) south of downtown Austin.

Stay:

New Braunfels is home to plenty of hotels, motels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, inns and rentals. Schlitterbahn Resort is one of the closest and offers Wurstfest packages including complimentary shuttle service, hot breakfast and more. The Faust Hotel and Brewing, built in 1929 and restored to its 1920s splendor, is a historic landmark in town and within walking distance to Wurstfest.

Eat & Drink:

Come hungry. A few of my personal Wurstfest favorites are the pork wings with sauerkraut and spicy sauce, New Braunfels Smokehouse’s sausage on a stick, kartoffelpuffers, the blooming onion and wurst-en-tachen. Wash it all down with your favorite German beer. 

Insider tip:

Head to Wurstfest on a weekday (Monday, Nov. 8 – Thursday. Nov. 11) when admission is free and crowds are lighter than on weekends. Weekend tickets (Fridays-Sundays) are $18 online, $20 at the gate and free for children 12 and under. Save with a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” coupon online good for Sundays (Nov. 11 and Nov. 14). 

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