When Mary Beth Rogers heard the news from her husband Friday morning that Wurstfest was on fire, she knew she had to come see for herself if it was true.
Wearing a black windbreaker, she walked along the Landa Golf Course sidewalk toward Hinman Island where much of the damage to the Marktplatz could be seen through the fence.
“I’m on the verge of tears, it breaks my heart,” Rogers said, staring at the blackened remains of the former concession booths.
Rogers was just one of many New Braunfels residents who strolled past the smoking vestiges of Wurstfest’s Marktplatz Friday morning and afternoon following the tragic burning down of the Marktplatz, which had been built in 1967.
“I just had to come see it for myself, I’ve been coming to Wurstfest since I moved here — I make sure to find the Grosse Opa and get the button every year — I was here for the opening night and Sunday’s closing ceremonies,” Rogers said. “It’s just a huge tradition and to see such a historical part of it be burned, it’s sad.”
Beverly Cohle, a New Braunfels resident since 1976, said she too was at Wurstfest for closing celebrations Sunday evening, and that her husband was an opa for 30 years.
“We were just here the other night, we never could have dreamed something like this would even happen,” Cohle said. “I know they will rebuild it and make it even better.”
Cohle said she hopes fire safety is taken into account when the new building is erected.
“I’m sure they’ll have a new design before we know it, hopefully a safer design that is more accessible and has better thought out fire exits,” Cohle said.
Samantha Allison, a New Braunfels resident for the past 14 years, said her daughter had just been volunteering in the Marktplatz last week and it was crazy it was now gone.
“(She was working there) for the Leo’s Club — she loved it and said the people were great. It’s just wild it happened right after, but it’s good that no one is hurt,” Allison said.
A vendor of one of the booths and the president to the German-American Society of New Braunfels Eric Tennyson said he was very upset about the blaze.
“We still had about $10,000 worth of merchandise in there — souvenirs, glassware, hats, all of that,” Tennyson said. “Many of the vendors were still in the process of removing their items.”
Liz Grow and her husband Patrick Pope were two other residents out on the scene Friday afternoon, taking cell phone pictures and videos.
“We both went to New Braunfels High School,” Grow said. “While this is sad, we know the party will go on, it won’t stop — we’ll come together next year to drink beer and listen to polka music and celebrate everyone coming together and building something new and better.”
Wurstfest will come together and will rise like a phoenix from the ashes, Pope said confidently.
“We know the opas will rise and show their might — some of our family members are actually opas, and we know how much this festival means to them,” Pope said. “New Braunfels is a preserving place, and I know if anyone will show fortitude it’s the people here.”