Each year, Wurstfest invites visitors and New Braunfelsers alike to come and purchase tasty treats, pitchers of suds and fun souvenirs.
During the annual 10-day salute to sausage, Wurstfest generates hundreds of thousands of dollars for nonprofits in the county, and it’s all thanks to the community’s volunteers.
“Wurstfest started out as an event that would attract outside dollars to the community, it was
n economic generator,” said Suzanne Herbelin, executive director of Wurstfest. “And then it started up primarily with local businesses.”
As the festival grew, businesses started giving up their spots at Wurstfest to tend to their boom during the 10-days, Herbelin said.
“By that time the festival had proven itself as a place where a business or organization could make money so the leaders decided they would offer these available spots to nonprofits to come provide a product for the 10 days as a fundraiser,” Herbelin said.
Rather than having a spaghetti dinner or other individual fundraisers, nonprofits realized they could work 10 days of Wurstfest and get a profit to help support their organization, she said.
“There still are some for-profit vendors in the Marktplatz but the majority of them are nonprofits who raise a good percentage of their budgets from the festival itself,” Herbelin said.
Wurstfest also helps organizations that advance its purpose to promote the economy through tourism, preserve the history of the organization and history of the community, Herbelin added.
“So we’ve been particularly generous to groups like the Sophienburg, the conservation society, the Brauntex Theater, the Circle Arts Theater, anything that either speaks to our past or is a catalyst to bring people to New Braunfels to visit,” she said.
Groups that participate in fundraising at Wurstfest include the International Lions Club, local rotary clubs, the Canyon and New Braunfels High School band boosters, St. Jude’s, New Braunfels Youth Soccer, the junior livestock show, Jaycees and more.
Tim Simicek, president of International Lions Club, said Wurstfest is great for the organizations and he always enjoys volunteering at it.
“Wurstfest is a lot of fun, it’s a great way to raise money for Lions,” Simecek said. “We volunteer because we love to give back to this community.”
Jennifer Garza, a member of the Jaycee’s, said she loves volunteering at Wurstfest for the camaraderie.
“What’s not to love about working Wurstfest?” Garza said with a smile. “Everyone is in great spirits, there’s great food and drinks around, it’s just an amazing time.”
Polka star Alex Meixner said he loves coming back every year to see many of the same people volunteering.
“You know, you’ll see a guy who’s 70 years old popping over those potato pancakes, and that’s great,” Meixner said. “We’re showing the kids that serving the community is a good thing and I love going into the schools for that.”
Mayor Barron Casteel said it’s exactly the sense of community that makes Wurstfest possible.
“This is one of my favorite weeks as a New Braunfelser,” Casteel said. “You get to see everybody — everybody in town and then all the visitors who come to the community, and of course it’s also the one week where all of our nonprofits really hit the black for next year.”
Casteel said he’s been volunteering at the festival since he was a boy, and he knows all New Braunfelsers take pride in Wurstfest’s charitable giving.
“My Rotary club will see $150,000 or more of potato pancakes — it’s a lot of potato pancakes,” he said with a laugh. “The first booth I worked in I was a sixth grader and came down, and we had a local Republican club at the middle school and two of my friends and I worked a couple shifts in the Republican Women’s booth.”
This sense of pride will be what keeps Wurstfest going for generations to come, Casteel added.
“The number of hours put in by the volunteers, that is the backbone of this festival and so this is a community event,” he said. “Everyone in this community, this is their festival, they have ownership — Wurstfest is theirs.”