My Town Monday: The Waynesville Sauerkraut Festival

Continuing last week’s homage to our area’s German heritage, let’s take a look at one of the biggest food festivals in southwest Ohio: the Sauerkraut Festival in Waynesville. And yes, it’s huge: according to the Sauerkraut Festival website, the event drew around 350,000 visitors last year, who ate seven tons of sauerkraut!

Last year's Sauerkraut Festival

Situated in the very northeast corner of Warren County, about 15 miles or so southeast of Dayton, Waynesville is known for its small town charm, and is considered the “Antiques Capital of the Midwest(sm).”  The festival started in 1970 as a feature dinner for a sidewalk sale, which quickly became the main event. Subsequent years brought more and more vendors as well as a steadily-growing attendance, and included unusual items like sauerkraut pizza, sauerkraut donuts, and even sauerkraut ice cream! I can’t help wondering if the ham and sauerkraut pizza is as good as Marion’s. For those who don’t like sauerkraut, there are plenty of other offerings, including perennial festival favorites like funnel cakes, deep fried candy bars, pulled pork, burgers and hot dogs.

image of sauerkraut ballsOne of my favorite foods, which we typically only have during the holidays, is sauerkraut balls. My grandparents went to the Sauerkraut Festival once in the mid-seventies, just to get the annual festival cookbook. With no Internet and limited bookstore offerings, it was the only place she knew she could get the recipe for sauerkraut balls. Even though I was a kid at the time, and like most kids, didn’t like kraut, those kraut balls were awesome! Grandma’s no longer with us, so if we get them now, it’s up to me. They are a lot of work, but some years I still make them, they’re so good. One of my coworkers makes the festival a must-go every year – his wife goes to shop for crafts, he goes to eat. The kraut balls are one of his favorites. He was disappointed in last year’s; said they must’ve used a different recipe. If this years’ kraut balls aren’t the good ones, I might have to make some to take in to work and share.

The Sauerkraut Festival is held every year on the second weekend in October, which would be the 8th and 9th this year – next week! I will admit I’ve only been to the Sauerkraut Festival a couple of times, and a long time ago at that. I do sometimes pass through on the way to and from another event that’s always held on the second Sunday of October, which we’ll visit next week: the Motorcycle Hill Climbs in nearby Oregonia.

What are some of the fun food festivals in your area? Are there any foods you specifically look for there – and maybe learned to make because of it?

More at the My Town Monday blog

Festival photo via official Sauerkraut Festival website, sauerkraut balls via