It is that time of year again. It is the one week where it is not only acceptable, but encouraged, to eat sausage off of a stick and drink beer from a pitcher.
Wurstfest is a ten day festival spanning from Nov. 2-11. It takes place in New Braunfels, Texas, in Wursthalle, situated between downtown New Braunfels and Landa Park.
The German translation of Wurstfest is “sausage festival.” The festival was founded in 1961 by the city’s meat inspector who wanted a festival to honor sausage. However, the festival is much more than sausage. There is live music, fair attractions and an almost limitless amount of beer.
Wurstfest pays homage to New Braunfels’ strong German heritage, Texas style.
An important cornerstone of Wurstfest culture is the Omas and Opas. Oma is German for grandmother and Opa translates to grandfather. Omas and Opas are official positions of Wurstfest planning.
During the festival, couples dress in traditional German costume. Lederhosen for Opas and dirndl or ladyhosen for Omas. The Omas and Opas are one of the most long-standing traditions of the festival.
Lisa Lumpkin, Texas State alumna and New Braunfels resident, has grandparents who were Oma and Opa for almost 50 years. Her grandparents, Dail and Elinor Wells, were involved within the first few years of the festival’s beginning.
The Opas are involved with Wurstfest planning year-round. From handling the business aspects to working the actual event, they do it all. The Omas mainly attend Wurstfest to support their spouse and enjoy the festivities.
The Omas, Opas and their immediate families are allowed access to an exclusive room.
“When I think of Wurstfest, I think of family,” Lumpkin said. “Just being there and having a great time with family.”
The title of Opa is more prestigious than one might think. There is an in-depth application process that requires sponsorship.
Stephanie Wommack, Wurstfest Oma and New Braunfels resident, said gaining the titles can be difficult. It took her husband, Opa Travis Wommack, almost two years to get accepted. On top of that, new Opas are only inducted whenever a previous Opa retires or passes away.
Becoming an Opa is a source of networking for many local residents. Many are businessmen from various professions in New Braunfels. They are able to network with other Opas, as well as with other local businesses and citizens.
In New Braunfels, being an Opa is considered an honor. Wurstfest is almost solely handled by them. Different members hold different titles, such as Treasurer.
There are two levels of Opas: Green Coat and Red Coat. The Red Coats are more prestigious and typically reserved for older Opas. Wommack’s husband is a Green Coat, while his father is a Red Coat.The Opas play a significant role in Wurstfest, as well as the town of New Braunfels.
Wurstfest is one of New Braunfels’ oldest traditions. It honors the town’s German roots as well as the fun, family oriented place it is today.
“(The festival) represents what New Braunfels is all about: family and tradition,” Wommack said.
Both Lumpkin and Wommack have attended Wurstfest since childhood. Lumpkin has attended every single year since she was one. Now that she has children of her own, she is able to carry on tradition with them.
Wurstfest is, and will continue to be, a staple in many local resident’s childhoods, and lifetimes in general.The Omas and Opas have a long history with Wurstfest and will always be extremely present in the festival, as well as the community.