Mount Angel celebrates a decade of Wurstfest
If you head to Mount Angel this weekend, it'll be wurst your while.
The 10th annual Wurstfest will be held at the Mount Angel Festhalle from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, celebrating 19 varieties of German sausage, accompanied by German and local beers, entertainment and plenty of specialty shopping.
Wurstfest, which is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Mount Angel Chamber of Commerce, always falls on the weekend before Ash Wednesday on the Lenten calendar, a German version of Mardi Gras or Carnaval, minus the costumes (unless you have a dirndl or lederhosen on hand).
"For a town like Mount Angel that has a Catholic church and the Abbey and Monastery, that's a meaningful event to come right before Ash Wednesday," organizer Kathy Wall said.
Not only is it meaningful, but it's popular too. Thanks to the biggest numbers in attendance last year, Wurstfest was able to raise $30,000-plus for the chamber. To accommodate that rise in numbers, this year Wurstfest is expanding the general vendor and dining area by putting up a big tent on the north end of the Festhalle.
Other than the tent, it's pretty much the same Wurstfest that draws people from all over the state year after year. There are many of the same musical acts, the kindergarten, the 10K/5K run Saturday morning, a sausage making demonstration, vendor booths and, of course, plenty of German sausage and beverages.
While the main structure is the same, there are slight differences. This year's kindergarten, for example, is run by the chamber in partnership with Salem business Bricks and Minifigs, which will have a "make and take" craft for the kids, in addition to the area's face painting, Valentine's Day crafts and soap carving demonstration.
On the dancefloor, the Kleinstadlers, Engelberg Dancers and Kinder Dancers (Mount Angel schoolchildren) are back, but this year will be the first Wurstfest that will feature a father-daughter dance. The Friday and Saturday nights' tradition of an anniversary waltz is still a hit, allowing the dancing couple who's been married the longest to win a night's stay at the Oregon Garden.
And on the stage, the familiar Oktoberfest-style tunes of Bavarian Echoes, Doppelbock Quartet, Z Musikmakers, and Paul Smith and Friends will make most anyone want to dance.
Special events include Senior Day (for ages 65 and up) from opening to 3 p.m. Friday, with some limited giveaways. On Saturday, RaceNorthwest sponsors the Wurst 5K/10K Run and Walk starting at 9:30 a.m. Fees include registration, course map, entry to Wurstfest, beer glass and a complimentary beverage. Register at http://racenorthwest.com/wurstrun/.
Work up that appetite by enjoying fare from area sausage makers — Mount Angel Sausage Company, Urban German and Ebner Sausage — with wursts like bratwurst, currywurst, frickadelwurst and many others garnished with sauerkraut, grilled onions, curry ketchups and mustards, plus other great German dishes.
Featured at the two bars are five Warsteiner beers from Germany, Frankenheim Alt, an IPA from Seven Brides Brewing and the Benedictine Black Habit Dark Ale from Mount Angel's Benedictine Abbey. There is an array of German and regional wines plus non-alcoholic beverages as well.
In addition to the ready-to-eat foods and drinks, artisans and craftspeople display their foods, condiments, hats, clothing and more. Baked goods, chocolates and other delicacies round out the food offerings so you can buy in time for Valentine's Day.
And if the festivities and food aren't enough to get you interested, perhaps the funds raised is a selling point.
"We try to keep the money in the community," Wall said. "Last year we renovated the Tree of Trades."
The Tree of Trades, which looks like a tall weather vane with tiny depictions of town and country life, stands tall outside City Hall, and is just one of many projects supported by the chamber.
In fact, there's an opportunity to buy a shed built by the John F. Kennedy High School shop class with funds received, in part, from the chamber.
"They're going to have the shed in front of the Festhalle," Wall said. "Proceeds will go to the materials for their next project."
Wurstfest also gives youths an opportunity to volunteer. For example, students in Future Business Leaders of America are volunteering to clean up the Festhalle this year after Wurstfest.
But that doesn't mean young people can't be part of the festivities. In fact, those under 21 can get into the two-day festival for free, as long as they're with a paying adult.
The cost for an adult to get in is $5 or $10 with a stein (while supplies last).
Wall admits that one reason Wurstfest does so well is because there isn't a whole lot else going on this time of year. But there are other reasons to visit, too.
"A German fest is fun, there's no getting around it," she said. "If you can come to a place that's not rowdy but it's lively, where you can feel free to bring your children and enjoy all the things there with your children, I think it's just a unique celebration in the middle of the dreariest part of the year."