The Marktplatz is gone.
Demolition on Wurstfest’s famous food court will wrap this week, closing three weeks of deconstruction.
Robles1 Demolition began clean up on Dec. 18, knocking down and moving pieces of the burned ruins left by a mid-November fire that destroyed the Marktplatz. The group was set to finish demolition on Jan. 10, however Robles1 is running slightly ahead of schedule and should finish by mid-week, said Suzanne Herbelin, Wurstfest executive director.
“What we had to do first was allow time for all the insurance adjusters and investigators to come in and see what they wanted to see, which it wasn’t just our insurance company — it was all the vendors that carried insurance in the Marktplatz, so we had probably close to 20 different insurance companies out here,” Herbelin said.
It was determined the fire was potentially started by a faulty light bulb, or the improper storage of combustibles next to a heat-producing source, city fire marshal Ethan Lindner previously told the Herald-Zeitung.
While Wurstfest allowed time for insurance companies to do their work, staff hired a structural engineer to look at Wursthalle and determine how sound it still was, Herbelin said.
“The two buildings were connected … (the engineer) came in with his report and made recommendations on what we needed to do to make sure the Wursthalle received no further damage as part of the demolition process,” she said.
Wursthalle was fitted with stabilizing structures like scaffolding and cables stretching from its ash-covered floor to its rafters.
“Their initial (demolition) estimate was four to six weeks and they’ve done wonderful work. Their work has been very clean, and neat and they kept the site very orderly,” Herbelin said.
Wurstfest maintenance employee Patrick Gaylord agreed, saying he’s hardly seen any dust from the process.
“Today’s kind of an exception because it’s a bit windier,” he said, leading the way through the rubble in a white hard hat. “But they’ve been very neat moving all the concrete into piles.”
Several organized piles of blackened burned wood lay scattered around the area that was once the Marktplatz. In one pile was a scattering of ash-covered buttons, their cheeky messages, such as “Made in Germany” and “Pray for me, my husband is German!” scratched and dented. In another were hundreds of stacked and melted Wurstfest cups, making grotesque arms reaching out of rubble and wood.
Gaylord made a beeline for Wursthalle. Its dark insides were coated in a fine layer of ash — parts of the wall closest to the Marktplatz blackened.
“The firefighters did an excellent job of saving the building,” Gaylord said, “The crests all survived,” he said gesturing at the still-white family crests hung on the walls. “There was a lot of ash that came over the top there but it could have been a lot worse.”
Only part of the sound booth and stage lights received any real damage; a half-melted clock eerily stuck at 6:17 marks the time the blaze reached the outer walls of the hall.
With 10 months left until New Braunfels’ 60th Wurstfest, staff has designated a rebuild committee for the new Marktplatz, which is headed by Rogers-O’Brien Construction Director John Archer and NBU CEO Ian Taylor, said 2019 Wurstfest President Jim Hill.
“A project of this size will require a lot of meetings in the upcoming months,” Hill said. “We are excited about the direction we’re heading in moving forward, and we’re looking forward to seeing the project completed, and we are progressing steadily.”
The rebuild committee met with vendors at the end of November to discuss future plans.
Watching the demolition from outside the gate Friday, Eric Tennyson, president of the German-American Society of New Braunfels — a vendor of one of the booths — said he’s pleased to see the progress Wurstfest is making.
“It looks like they’re making good time,” he said.
The rebuild committee is in the process of negotiating an agreement with a design-build company, Herbelin said.
“They’ll come in and design and build sort of simultaneously,” she said. “We don’t have much time to get a big project like this off the ground, and so we’re trying to move it efficiently and as quickly as possible.”