Suffice it to say that this spring, just about everything has become political. And Wisconsin's own favorite sausage, the bratwurst, has not escaped the ideological debate.
This Memorial Day weekend, Madison will find itself holding not just the World's Largest Bratfest, but at least three alternative brat celebrations/charity fundraisers. While the impetus behind creating more grilling gatherings was unease about brat maker Johnsonville's financial backing of the Scott Walker campaign, the official sentiment going forward is: If one brat fest is good, four must be better. And if one charity fundraiser is good, why not a few more? For those of you who have not been keeping track, here is the brat rundown.
The World's Largest Brat Fest will be held at Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on May 27-29 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on May 30. About a million bands will be playing over the course of the weekend, and on the menu: Johnsonville brats, Oscar Mayer hot dogs and Tofurkey veggie brats. New this year -- roasted corn on the cob. That's right, you don't have to wait for August when sweet corn is in season. Beer, Wollersheim wine, and Chocolate Shoppe ice cream will also be on sale. The fest's proceeds go to a long list of local charities.
The People's Bratfest is "intended to show the great local variety the people of the Farmers' Market, Madison and the whole of Wisconsin can put on together." The event will be on the Square (MLK or West Washington side, to be determined) from "roughly 10 a.m. to 3 p.m on Saturday, May 28, or until we sell out," reports Bill Fetty, one of the event's coordinators. Also "We'll have vegan and vegetarian brats competing for the best 'non-brat'" says Fetty. Other Farmers' Market fare will be highlighted as well.
Although this may appear to be the most political of the alt-fests, "This isn't a boycott; we support all of the charities that are involved with Wisconsin no matter whose brats they eat, buy, or sell," Fetty notes. This event prefers to focus on the idea of supporting local farms and agriculture. Proceeds will go to local charities.
Wurst Times (with a hat tip to Charles Dickens -- "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times") will be held at the High Noon Saloon, The Brass Ring, and the Brink Lounge, all at 701 E. Washington Ave. from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, May 28. The focus is community; attendees should bring one canned food item per person, with donations and proceeds going to Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin.
Sponsors include Minhas Craft Brewery of Monroe and Sheboygan Brats. Tofurkey veggie brats will be available, as well as the regular menu from the Brass Ring. A full slate of bands will be playing at all three venues in the building.
Alt Bratfest, "A celebration of lotsa things local!," will be held at Orton Park from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday, May 29. Advance ticket sales are through BrownPaperTickets.com and go on sale May 20 at midnight. This may be the foodiest of your brat fest choices.
Sausage and charcuterie will be served and sourced from Jordandal Farms, Black Earth Meats, Goose Chaser Farms, Underground Food Collective, Alchemy, Natt Spil, Weary Traveler Freehouse and others. There will be live music; alcoholic beverages are BYO. A $10 donation = 2 food items and one beverage; $15 donation = 3 food items and two beverages. Proceeds go to local charities.