Gull Harbor Lutheran Church will host its 37th annual Sausage Fest Friday (Oct. 9), “our last, final, closing, concluding and ultimate Sausage Fest,” as the church’s outgoing voice-mail message described it last week.
The fundraising feast is an alcohol-free Oktoberfest, celebrating sausages, strudel and German culture.
“It’s a family festival,” said Brian Stehr of Lacey, who’s been helping with the festival since Rudy Wagner of Wagner’s Bakery got it started back in 1989.
The festival, traditionally a two-day event, is focused on food. There is knackwurst, bockwurst and kielbasa; there are hot dogs and potato chips for the kids; there are red cabbage and German potato salad and root beer.
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It’s a challenge to clean your plate, Stehr said. And save room for dessert.
“My gosh, the apple strudel is outstanding,” Stehr said. “Rudy always brings the apple strudel.”
Although some people get dinner to-go, the event also offers entertainment, including accordion music by Lyle Schaefer of Puyallup.
“We all sing German songs, and Lyle has been playing that accordion for us for I don’t know how long,” Stehr said. “It’s real German music.”
Some people even dress in traditional Bavarian outfits.
So why is it ending?
“It’s a lot of work, and it’s just harder to get everyone enthused about it,” said Suzanne Appelo, the church’s pastor.
“There are so many Oktoberfests now,” Stehr said. “All the casinos have them, and even some of the schools have them. We always say we were the ones who started it.
“We’ve served as many as 1,100 people on both nights, and last year it was only about 500 people on both nights.”
He has been volunteering with the festival since it began as a fundraiser for the church itself. It later changed focus, becoming a benefit for nonprofits. Last year, the festival brought in $6,100, which was divided among SafePlace, the Thurston County Food Bank and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Disaster Response. This year, all proceeds will go to SafePlace.
The church will find a new project to rally around, Appelo said.
“The younger people in the church are interested in other things,” she said. “We need to find what sparks them. That was what Sausage Fest was 37 years ago.”
So Friday night, the church bids the festival a fond farewell. For one last time, you can get a plateful of sausage and an earful of accordion music.
“There are some people who have been coming to it for 37 years, and they’re real sad that we’re stopping,” Appelo said.
“There’s all kinds of broken hearts, I’ll tell you that,” Stehr said.
What: Gull Harbor Lutheran Church’s 37th and final fest features a hearty sausage dinner, hot dogs for kids and accordion music. All proceeds go to SafePlace.
When: 4-7:30 p.m. Friday (Oct. 9).
Where: Gull Harbor Lutheran Church, 4610 Boston Harbor Road NW, Olympia.
Tickets: Suggested donation is $15 for adults and $5 for children. Tickets are available at Wagner’s Bakery and at the door.
Information: 360-352-5335, gullharborchurch.org.