Over 55 Years of Fun: The Stories Behind Wurstfest

November in New Braunfels is one of the most iconic seasons for our little Hill Country town: festive music fills the streets, friends and neighbors gather for celebratory drinks, and the food is plentiful.

Oh, and in case you think we’re talking about the joys of Thanksgiving, think again! November in New Braunfels means we go crazy for Wurstfest.

That holiday music is accordion-rich polka, those festive drinks are dark German beers, and that incredible food is platefuls of potato pancakes and sausage.

As one of the most popular Oktoberfest celebrations in the country, Wurstfest is a longstanding local tradition, serving up good food and good fun for over tens of thousands of visitors every autumn. But just what goes on behind festival curtains? We’ve compiled a list of stories, anecdotes, and pieces of history that make up our favorite New Braunfels festival!

Bringing Oktoberfest to New Braunfels

So how exactly did Wurstfest get started in New Braunfels? In the Fall of 1959, New Braunfels resident John Grist returned home from an assignment in Germany and began raving to his parents about the joys he experienced at Oktoberfest. As he regaled them with his colorful tales, they grew wistful for a similar celebration of food, music, and beer. Ed Grist, the city meat inspector, decided to throw a party in 1961 and invited the local sausage makers and beer distributors to show their literal and figurative chops. And just like that, Wurstfest was born! Staying true to the idea that it was just a “little party,” Ed and Betty decided to include music and dancing, and the German heritage of the town folded into what is now one of the most lively Bavarian parties in the country.

The town began to transform during the Fall: restaurants began including a sausage-heavy menu, Wursthalle was built (complete with a Biergarten!), and by 1974 the festival had expanded to ten days. Pretty soon, the grounds of Wurstfest had tripled, and more opportunity was available for the festival to grow. You will constantly hear the phrase “Prost!” throughout the festival, a German “cheers!” that symbolizes the camaraderie of all the Wurst visitors that makes that time under the tent a very special and safe place where nothing but good cheer is permitted. And though the festival has grown, its original purpose has stayed the same: “Let’s eat some good food, enjoy some delicious drinks, and dance the night away with friends and strangers alike.”

The Food, The Drinks, The Music

Let’s break this down in a way that doesn’t have us slobbering all over the keyboard: Wurstfest has over seven sausage styles, over 16 beers on tap (including German staples as well as local Texas brews and all things Oktoberfest), and other favorites like homemade soups, potato salad, sauerkraut, and our personal favorite: kartoffelpuffer (also known as the potato pancake). Fair standards like funnel cakes, pretzels, and things on-a-stick will be available as well through other vendors.

As the list of beers changes every year, know that there isn’t going to be a wrong choice on the tap wall. For those of you who aren’t too big into branching out, Shiner will have their beers available, and for everyone else, we hope that they will have the Warsteiner Dunkel back on the wall this year. Excuse us for our glazed over look as we daydream about this buffet of glory.

The Scale of Wurstfest

In 1979, Wurstfest had 165,000 guests who devoured 42,000 Kartoffelpuffers, 22,000 Shish-ka-bobs, 19,000 ears of corn, 10,000 turkey legs, and 42 tons of sausage. Those kinds of numbers were maintained for the years to come. In 1989, national media had given attention to the festival when the reunification of Germany was beginning, and our two countries felt a little bit closer. The festival averages well over 100,000 visitors each year from different cities, states, and countries - all who want to get their fill of the great German heritage in which the community was founded. This year is expected to host over 150,000 friends throughout the ten days.

A Few Fun Facts

Upon entering the Wurstgrounds, patrons will feel transported to a completely new place and time as they see the different decorated halls, tents, and people who are dressed to the nines in lederhosen. You might also notice a lot of older people who are treated like celebrities - these are our Omas and Opas, over 200 honorary grandparents of the festival who make up a board of directors to make sure the festival runs as intended.

If you have heard of Wurstfest, then you must know the man, the myth, and the absolute legend: Alex Meixner. Who knew that polka could also be punk rock? Meixner and his band turn what could be known as the least desirable music genre into an uncontrollable riot of a good time. His energy and enthusiasm is a well that never runs dry, and he performs several times per day at the festival. He has also just completed a major motion picture with Jack Black called “The Polka King” which just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The breadth of fame at Wurstfest goes far and wide.

Did you know? Wurstfest is a non-profit organization that desires to promote local commerce through the immense amount of tourism it brings to the city every year to preserve the heritage of the community. It has currently donated over $2 million to New Braunfels organizations. Patrons can feel good knowing that their money spent at Wurstfest goes towards the betterment of the town through various community projects.

Wurstfest: This Year, Don’t Miss Out

It is officially Wurstfest time here in New Braunfels, and we don’t want anyone to miss out on the great fun that will be had down at the Wurstgrounds. Opening day begins on November 3rd at 4:00 pm and runs until November 12th. Please visit the Wurstfest website for scheduled events that you can’t miss like the Alex Meixner Band, Die Bayrischen Hiatamadln, and more. This event is all ages, so feel free to bring the kids as there will be events designed for them as well. Last but not least, dress up! If you have some lederhosen or a dirndl we recommend you should put it on because half of the attendees normally wear their Oktoberfest apparel throughout the week. Get ready for the "wurst" time of the year, and we will see you there!

Festival Hours:

Opening Day: 4:00 pm-11:30 pm

Saturdays: 11:00 am- 12:00 am

Sundays: 11:00 am- 9:00 pm

Monday-Wednesday: 5:00 pm-9:30 pm

Thursday & Friday: 5:00pm-11:30pm

If you’re interested in becoming a part of the vibrant New Braunfels community, we’d love to show you around town! Contact a lender today to see how much you can afford and talk to a REALTOR ® to get started