WAYNESVILLE — Big crowds enjoyed crisp fall temperatures and sunshine Saturday for the kickoff of the 52nd annual Sauerkraut Festival in Waynesville.
North Main Street was bustling with vendors, food tents and festival-goers. Waynesville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kelly Miller said she anticipates record-breaking attendance for the festival that touts six-figure crowds for the weekend.
“Last year, we hit record numbers and I won’t be surprised if we do this year, as well, especially with this beautiful fall weather,” Miller said.
The annual event is a staple in the Waynesville community, Miller said, and serves as a huge source of revenue for the Chamber of Commerce and local organizations.
“This is the Chamber’s number one source of income, and there’s also a uniqueness in that it supports our town,” she said. “All of the local nonprofits are eligible to have a booth, so we have booths run by St. Augustine’s Church, athletic groups, various clubs, and youth groups. A lot of the organizations are able to sustain the whole year based on what they make during this festival.”
Craft vendor Carmen Watkins of Brookville has set up shop at the Sauerkraut Festival for the past 18 years, selling crocheted items like pillows and tea towels.
“I like this festival because there’s always a lot of people, and they do buy,” Watkins said. “And I like that the Chamber of Commerce tries to space out the vendors and make sure there’s not similar items being sold really close by. Plus, everything sold here has to be handcrafted.”
Miller said the festival hosts more than 400 craft vendors from across the country.
“There are vendors from about 26 different states, so they really come from afar to be here,” she said. “Our crafters are twice juried, which means they have to prove their craft ... there is no reselling of products here.”
Along with vendors, the fest is sprinkled with food and drink tents. Most notably, of course, is the variety of sauerkraut options. They range from traditional — the wildly popular German sundae amassed a line of hungry customers that stretched more than a block — to a more uncommon baked goods tent that featured savory treats like sauerkraut pie and bread.
Josie Murray was not deterred by the long line for the German sundae, which moved surprisingly fast, as volunteers had clearly been prepared for the crowd, having mastered an assembly-line-style operation to get customers served quickly.
The sundae — potatoes, sauerkraut, cheese, sour cream, and bacon bits with an olive on top — is “fantastic,” Murray said. Born and raised in Waynesville before moving to Cincinnati, she said the festival is one of the main reasons she visits her hometown.
“I try to come every year for the exact reason of the German sundae,” Murray said, adding that she also enjoys the sauerkraut pizza.
The fest’s official sauerkraut sponsor is Frank’s Kraut, and each year a whopping 11,000 pounds of the cabbage-based product is shipped in, according to Miller.
The festival continues Sunday, with live entertainment scheduled throughout. For more details, visit sauerkrautfestival.waynesvilleohio.com.