Go to Wurstfest and you’ll see them everywhere in the crowd: small-brimmed, felt hats festooned with pins. But why? What do they mean?
Connie Murphy, Mary Devine and Helgard Suhr paused from working at the German-American Society’s booth on Thursday to explain.
“It came from Germany, probably Bavaria,” Suhr said, with her heavy German accent. “I’ve been seeing them my whole life.”
“Often times people purchase them when they’re hiking as a souvenir,” Devine said of the hats. “The pins come from traveling.”
The mission of the 150-member German-American Society is to promote and preserve German heritage and culture in New Braunfels, Devine explained, saying the organization gives support to other German heritage groups, such as the Edelweiss Kinder Chor von New Braunfels, a children’s choir that sings traditional German songs. The club produces a new pin each year bearing the Wurstfest logo, making them a hot commodity.
“Club members from the German-American Society design them,” Devine said. “Every year we have a contest. If you’re not the world’s most inclined artist, you can still draw out a sketch and write out your idea and another artist in the club can draw it for you. Then, there is a secret vote, a design is selected for that year and then it’s produced. Often they sell out before the festival is over.”
Along with the pins bearing the Wurstfest logo, the booth sells pins from a variety of German-speaking countries, Devine said.
“We have some from Salzburg and Berlin, a lot from Bavaria,” Murphy said.
Eight-year-old Ray Faris stepped to the display case to choose a fourth pin for his hat on Thursday. He started collecting the pins this year, and his father, Warren Faris, explained he may have served as inspiration for his son, as Warren has a hat of his own with 12 pins.
“I think they’re cool,” Ray said. “I think they’re interesting because they come from different places all over the world.”
Wurstfest Opa Tim Zipp said his first pin, featuring a University of Texas Longhorn emblem, is his favorite because of the story behind it.
“It was the very first pin I got,” he recalled. “It was my first year as an Opa, and a lady I knew, Sandy Drubert, was walking into Wurstfest and she said, ‘You need some pins on that hat.’ She took one off of hers and gave it to me so I could put it on mine.”
Opa Martin Allen, the only Opa to be Grosse Opa before being president of the Wurstfest Association, said his favorite pin is one he got in Germany while in the U.S. Army during the mid-1960s.
“I have so many pins, I have two hats, plus there are more pins in my dresser because I can’t put them all on,” he said. “I probably started collecting them around 1983. I get them wherever I go.”
Dan Kruger, Opa and immediate past president of the Wurstfest Association, encouraged people to talk ask pin wearers about their collection.
“There’s a story behind every pin,” he said. “It was maybe given to you by someone who loved you, someone who knows you, someone who’s traveled somewhere or you’ve been someplace that you really like. If you sit down with any Opa, they can tell you a story for every pin on their hat.”