Three years ago during the turmoil of the Republican attack on Wisconsin unions, it became important to some that Johnsonville, maker of the bratwurst for the World's Largest Brat Fest fundraiser at Willow Island, had a history of giving money to conservative causes, as well as thousands in campaign donations to Scott Walker.
That's how three new bratwurst-based festivals were launched in Madison over the course of Memorial Day weekend in 2011: the People's Bratfest, Wurst Times and Alt Bratfest. While the last of these was held only once, the other two fests are still going strong.
People's Bratfest will be held Saturday, May 25, on the Library Mall. The kid-friendly, alcohol-free event attracted an estimated 5,000 people last year and sold nearly 3,000 brats. Says organizer Bill Fetty: "We keep getting stronger advertising and continue to lengthen the amount of time we plan. We've already started planning for 2014." This year, local radio station WORT 89.9 FM is a sponsor, and there will be live music and other entertainment, including a live graffiti wall and a performance by Truly Remarkable Loon.
Vegan sausages will be available from Field Roast of Seattle, Washington, and meat brats are from Stoddard's Meats in nearby Cottage Grove. For something sweet, there will be baklava donated by Athens Gyros. Tickets are available in advance through Wild Child on Monroe Street and online in amounts of $1 (for drinks) and $4 (for brats).
Fetty notes that the fest buys its brats as opposed to getting them donated, and that 100 % of profit goes to local charities; the bands and activities are free.
Wurst Times, also known as the Wurst Times Fest (or "WTF") will be held at the High Noon Saloon and the Brass Ring on Sunday, May 26. This year there are door prizes for the first 100 people (doors open at 11 a.m.) as well as free coffee from Java Cat. Co-sponsored by the Madison Area Music Association, the festival features over thirty local bands and musicians, and has a suggested donation of $10. Brats are $3 or 2/$5 and beer is $4.
"We strive to keep this an affordable, working-class event" says organizer Rodney Knoke. This year there will also be a "Mods vs. rockers, scooters vs. motorcycles" show in the parking lot, sponsored by Scooter Therapy. This "show and shine" will be accompanied by antics courtesy of the Mad Rollin' Dolls derby league.
Proceeds from Wurst Times go to Second Harvest Foodbank and for Madison music education.