Don’t you love humble beginnings?
Case in point …
Many, many years ago two gentlemen by the names of Kettering and Deeds decided they were weary from starting their automobile engines by turning an impractical hand crank on the front of the car. So, together they invented the self-starter. Unfortunately this also ushered in the phrase, “I locked my keys in the car.”
At one time, two brothers with the last name of Wampler responded to the huge dance craze of the 1940s by building a dance floor in a barn on their apple orchard property. Along with Saturday night dancing, people soon rented the facility for other events and when the circus couldn’t come to town because Dayton didn’t have a big enough facility to house the lions, tigers and bears – oh my! – Harry and Ralph Wampler (“Ha” from Harry and “Ra” from Ralph) built Hara Arena.
And in 1970, the Waynesville Retail Merchants association planned a sidewalk sale with someone suggesting a sauerkraut dinner as part of the event. Now, over 40 years later and some 350,000 of the townsfolk’s personal friends make the second weekend in October one of the biggest festivals in the state – could I even say universe?
And with that stroke of genius, the Waynesville Sauerkraut Festival was born.
Ah, humble beginnings.
“That first year we served 528 pounds of sauerkraut to 1,500 visitors,” said Dawn Schroeder, Executive Director of the Waynesville Chamber of Commerce.
Word spread of the great food, entertainment and arts & crafts, and the following year brought some 4,000 folks, and 10,000 the year after that. Then, in 1982, they hit a milestone: the 100,000 visitors mark. Soon the festival got so big, it outgrew its Waynesville name to become the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival.
“Last year we served some seven tons of sauerkraut with 30 different food stands and over 450 quality craft booths, plus visitors and vendors from every state in the union,” Schroeder said. She also said residents of Waynesville rally “round the festival, planning, plotting, cooking cabbage rolls and baking those sauerkraut sweet treats.”
“Most of the community is involved in one fashion or another,” Schroeder added. “They volunteer in a food booth of some kind or numerous food booths, depending on the organizations their family are involved in. Our food vendors are local non-profit groups, anything from church organizations to pee-wee football.”
Also, unlike many festivals in the area, this one sets itself apart in one area.
“No offense to the others, but we have no carnival games or rides, we are a food and arts & crafts festival,” Schroeder said.
Personally, many people tell me, “That festival is too crowded. No way, not for me.” Well, I have news for you, they have the crowd under control. When you mention the masses, Schroeder is armed with many ways for visitors to navigate the Oct. 12 weekend.
“We suggest that people park at Wayne Local School on Dayton Road,” Schroeder explained. “Follow the shuttle signs and you can park all day for $5 a carload. It is a great deal where you can park, ride, take goodies back and forth to your car and ride the shuttle all day.”
Once you’re there, you can move about freely.
“We spread our food booths throughout the festival so you can nibble your way throughout the festival grounds,” Schroeder said. “That way you don’t have an area with huge lines. There is food in every block and it makes it convenient for you to taste all of our goodies.”
And don’t forget that, yes, Waynesville is home to one of the premier fall festivals, but the rest of the year they’re open for business as well.
“Waynesville also hosts some of the best shopping in the area, so we hope that you check out our dependable retailers, who graciously open their doors during the weekend.” Schroeder said.
Now here’s some fun stuff. Basically, The Ohio Sauerkraut Festival by the numbers.
The previously mentioned 7 tons of Snow Floss Sauerkraut that food organizations use to cook with or as a topping: 13,000 cabbage rolls; 11,000 sauerkraut balls; 8,400 slices of sauerkraut pizza; 600 packages of sauerkraut cookies; 300 loaves of bread.
Wait there’s more:
Sauerkraut sundae/ Cabbage rolls/ Bread, custard pies, brownies and cookies with sauerkraut/ Sauerkraut fudge/ Burgers and hot dogs with sauerkraut/ Reubens/ Sauerkraut pizza/ Polish cabbage soup/ Pork, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut/ Sauerkraut balls/ Johnsonville brats and metts/ Pulled pork & chicken sandwiches with kraut
And, of course, there is plenty of food for the non-sauerkraut eater.
So, as you’re driving away from this year’s festival (in your automobile with the self-starter), Schroeder hopes you head home with this.
“We want people to leave with the experience that they just visited the most premier festival in the region,” she said.
Oh, and that you didn’t lock your keys in the car.
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