Enjoy Sauerkraut Day…..
Anyone living downwind from Wishek is treated to the wonderful aroma of cabbage every October.
By Marvin Baker
Sauerkraut Day is a festival in Wishek that over the years has drawn tens of thousands of people. Nearly everyone in the community of 1,000 is involved in some way and those who visit from North and South Dakota, are treated to a free meal that includes, of course, sauerkraut.
Normally held the second Wednesday in October, Sauerkraut Day is not just a meal of hot dogs, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes, it’s a day when McIntosh County stands still so those who attend can visit, share memories and listen to German music.
Following the meal, downtown businesses open their doors and offer dessert.
This coming October will be the 93rd annual festival that just seems to get bigger each year and draws people from a larger area.
In 2017, Sauerkraut Day leadership said it served about 1,200 meals, but it really can’t pinpoint attendance each year.
Wishek doesn’t hold the record as the oldest Sauerkraut Day. Ackley, Iowa, has that designation as that community has been celebrating fermented cabbage since 1902.
There are six other communities in the United States that celebrate this festival at various times including Providence, Utah, but that festival is dependent on availability of sauerkraut.
However, Wishek is unique in both Dakotas, as no other community has a sauerkraut party. The Wishek Chamber of Commerce declares that Wishek is the “sauerkraut capital of the nation.”
More than 100 pounds of sauerkraut and 500 pounds of Cloverdale hot dogs are served each year. There’s also “schpeck,” which is pork and bacon fat. Each year, 200 pounds of speck is used for the meal.
Leroy and Pat Wanner are tasked with cooking the famous sauerkraut every year. They heat it in huge pots in city hall. The mashed potatoes are made at the local nursing home. It’s the only place in town with a kitchen large enough for such an undertaking.
Being the heart of the Germans from Russia in North Dakota, Wishek is centrally located and has the manpower to pull off a feed of this magnitude.
It also has a civic center that will house hundreds of people for just such an event.
Other activities go on around the Sauerkraut Day meal. There’s a craft show and bingo, and kids are let out of school so they can participate as well.
In 1925, the local merchants decided they wanted to do something to give back to the community and show the locals how much they appreciated their support.
From a concept, it became an annual event in which local residents would ride their wagons up to a sort of drive-through window and get their meal.
Today, it is quite different. People begin lining up at 7 a.m., as if they were going to a Six Fat Dutchmen concert.
Others, who live in Wishek, get up early and head to the civic center where they will work a long, hard day to appreciate the local people and what they do for Wishek’s economy.
If you look at testimonials of this festival over the past 10 years, they’ll say that everyone should experience Sauerkraut Day for the food, the fellowship, the music and the dessert.
Others say that few people outside of Wishek realize how much labor it takes to pull this off. There’s set-up, there’s cooking, there’s transport of food in the “Kraut Mobile,” there’s serving and clean-up after the event.
The best part about this is it remains free. All you have to do is show up, get in line and let your nose lead you to where the sauerkraut is being served.
Ironically, that’s not the only unique thing about Wishek and food.
Stan’s Super Valu, which is located just blocks from the Wishek Civic Center, has become nationally famous for its sausage.
Only a handful of people know the recipe that has been handed down from Stan Deile, who started making the sausage in 1962. Current owner, Stan’s son Darren, continues to churn out the tasty sausage.
People come from all over to purchase the sausage, and they say there is no other like it in North Dakota, not anywhere.
It has become so popular that Deile has placed it on the Internet. Just log onto (www.wisheksausage.com) and take a look at what Stan’s Super Valu offers.
It’s worth the drive or worth the freight. It’s guaranteed.