The fire that consumed the historic Wurtfest Marktplatz Friday morning isn’t the first disaster Wurstfest has faced — and once again, its members are pulling together.
Wurstfest gave the New Braunfels Police Department an official statement Friday afternoon, thanking New Braunfels Fire Department and NBPD
officers, as well as neighboring city fire crews for working so hard to keep the fire contained.
“The historic Wursthalle appears to have been spared from most of the fire,” the statement, posted to NBPD’s Facebook, read. “Wurstfest is a New Braunfels community celebration; our whole town puts it on. And, Wurstfest and New Braunfels are resilient. We rebuilt after floods. We will rebuild after this. We will be ready to host the 60th Wurstfest on November 6, 2020 during the 175th celebration of the founding of New Braunfels.”
The statement also said Wurstfest is sorry for the losses suffered by the concessionaires and the nonprofit organizations that host booths within the Marktplatz.
“But, please know we will ALL come back better than ever.”
Dan Krueger, 2019 Grosse Opa, said his first reaction to hearing about the fire was that he was thankful no one was hurt or injured.
“My second thought was to pray and thank the first responders for their timely effort and for doing everything they could to save the buildings,” Krueger said.
Wurstfest’s 2019 President Jim Hill also said he is grateful no was injured.
“Things can be replaced, lives can’t,” Hill said solemnly. “We will rebuild.”
When looking at the big picture, Wurstfest has a year to rebuild, which Krueger said he is thankful for.
“It happened after the festival fortunately, and the main thing is nobody got hurt,” Krueger said.
The loss of the historic Marktplatz, built in 1967, is very sad Krueger said.
“You think of who built it and when they built it and how well it’s served us all — it’s a piece of history that is lost,” Kruger said.
New Braunfels is a community of veterans, of Wurstfest Association members, and Hill said he’s sure many the many leaders of the city, county and more will come together.
“We’ll be back, we’ll get through this,” Hill said. “I’m sure we’ll get this building replaced and have a great 60th festival.”
The good thing about the Wurstfest Association is that all of the guys involved are incredible and have a can-do attitude, Krueger said.
“I know they’ll be chomping at the bit, shovels ready, to whatever they can to help,” Krueger said. “They’re going to be anxious to get out there and help, so we can all be ready for next year.”
Judy Young, vice president of the New Braunfels Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Wurstfest is a very important event and organization for the New Braunfels community and has been for nearly 60 years.
“The opportunities it’s provided for our nonprofits to have concessions on the grounds means a great deal to the financial viability of nonprofits in our area,” Young said. “It’s always been a place where the collective community pride gets to live during those 10 days.”
New Braunfels is resilient, and will be in the face of this fire as well, Young said.
“Regardless of low water, high water, a fire or something else, we all come together,” Young said. “I just know we’ll all put on our boots and get at it.”
Yound said her own mother has worked inside Wursthalle at the drink tickets booth for over 45 years, and is fondly known by many as the “chicken dance lady.”
“She keeps count of how many times the chicken dance is played in the hall and keeps it on the walls of her booth,” Young said. “So for us, as a family, we’ll be there for whatever Wurstfest needs — ready to rebuild and repaint and re-draw those tallies.”
Feeling the loss
Nancy Classen, known as the face of the Sophienburg’s booth in the Marktplatz during Wurstfest, said there are no words to describe the feeling everyone has about losing this historic treasure.
“It’s really a loss,” Classen said. “We were still in the process of getting products out and it was all new — I haven’t been down there yet myself, but I know it’s all gone. It’s all very devastating, we’re mourning it — but we have Weihnachtsmarkt this next week, so we have to think about that now.”
The loss is very hard but Classen said she knows Wurstfest and its members, and knows “we will come back.”
“We’ll rebuild as we can, and we’ll go onto the next project,” Classen said.
City Manager Robert Camareno said he was floored when he received the call.
“It was like a gut punch, but we’re going to come together as a community like we always do and were going to get it done,” Camareno said.
“My heart goes out to all of the nonprofits that are the backbone of the festival,” Mayor Barron Casteel said. “I know that Wurstfest will re-open on Nov. 6, 2020 and those 10 days are the lifeblood of all of our nonprofits and service organizations in this community and the charitable works they do — I know the festival will be there to support their mission.”
“I know the citizens and those organizations took a hit today, but we’ll re-open for what represents the 60th year of Wurstfest in what will be the 175th year of our community.”
State Representative Kyle Biedermann also shared his thoughts.
“Barbi and I are sending prayers to the Wurstfest Association and the city of New Braunfels, as well as thank the first responders for fighting the massive fire on the Wurstfest grounds.
“Wurstfest is a tradition like no other, and we are saddened by the tragic damage.”
Wurstfest began as a small downtown festival in 1961, conceived by local veterinarian and city meat inspector E.A. Grist as a salute to the city’s German sausage making tradition, according to a Texas Historical Commission marker near the event’s Elizabeth Avenue entrance.
The city’s “10-day Salute to Sausage,” which blends foods and musical entertainment, moved to its 116-acre site off Landa Park Drive in 1967, and is the largest annual fundraiser for local clubs and nonprofit organizations’ charitable activities throughout the community.
Will Wright also contributed to this report.