Saturday, May 26, 2007
Kicking Off the Weekend: Brat Fest
Friday was the kick-off for the long Memorial Day weekend, and I-90 was jammed with traffic. Friday was also a day that gave me anothe reason to be glad I am retired. I don’t feel compelled to go anywhere this weekend, especially since I already took flowers to the cemeteries for my family. Campers and boaters and picnicers can rejoice, because when in the past we planned to camp, hike or bicycle over Memorial Day it rained buckets. We’re sticking close to home this time and the weather forecast is mostly good.
We did do one new thing on Friday; for the first time we attended the World's Largest Brat Fest in Madison. Wisconsin is famous for lots of things, the Packers, the dairy industry, cheese, beer, and brats, to name a few. I have toured Wisconsin breweries like Pabst and Leinenkugel’s, have gone to Monroe’s Cheese Days, but somehow had missed Madison’s Brat Fest. Where had I been since 1983? Probably finishing final exams and working on grades, but I digress. Brats (bratwurst), for those of you not in the know, are German pork sausages, and they are usually grilled, sometimes simmered, in beer with or without onions, then served on a hard roll or hot dog bun. They are a staple of tailgating parties, and picnics. I like mine with horseradish sauce and sauerkraut, but other popular toppings include mustard, ketchup, onions or pickle relish. My husband is a ketchup and kraut kind of guy.
The Brat Fest folks take grilling brats to an extreme level. They have a customized semi with a huge grill that can cook 750 brats an hour, plus there are auxillary grills for peak times, bringing the capacity up to 9,000 brats per hour. As a friend from Sheboygan says,"That's a big brat fry." Besides Johnsonville Brats, the Brat Fest folks grill hot dogs, and there were Boca hot dogs for the vegetarians. The Weinermobile was there videotaping youngsters singing the hot dog song (see sketchbook rendering). A country band cheerfully played sad songs about folks with cheating hearts, and the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum was putting out their Fathers Day Mustard and selling “Poupon U” tee shirts. Early in the day not too many kiddies were trying out the Tilt-A-Whirl, Ferris Wheel, or Dragon Wagon, but I imagine as the weekend continues the midway will heat up as well.
The four day event is designed to raise funds for a long list of local charities, and organizers hope to set another world’s record for the total number of brats consumed. We like to talk about benchmarks these days. The record at this event was set in 2004, when hungry Wisconsinites ate, with relish I hope, 189,432 brats,1,960 pounds of onions, 161 gallons of mustard, 130 gallons of ketchup and 4,082 pounds of kraut in four days. The bar is set pretty high, but I did my best to help them reach their goal.
UPDATE: Alas, no new world's record. One rainy day prevented the event from breaking its own record.