Kraut Fest

A crowd gathers to cheer on the competitors in the women's division of the sauerkraut eating contest on June 23, 1996 at Kraut Fest.

CALEDONIA — The sauerkraut will return en masse.

After a 12-year absence, the Kraut and Music Festival is officially returning this summer following unanimous approval Thursday from the Joint Park Commission. The festival is set for June 18-21 at Caledonia-Mount Pleasant Memorial Park, 9614 Northwestern Ave.

The event had been held for more than 50 years before its 2003 cancellation after a decline in attendance and shortage of funding and volunteers.

This reincarnated version of the old “Kraut Fest” will have a new emphasis on music. About 34 bands will play on two stages over the four-day event, said Ray Stibeck, owner of Route 20 Outhouse and one of the organizers of the event.

He believes the bands, which will cover a wide range of genres, will help attract people from around the area.

“I think this area will be very receptive to it,” Stibeck said during the commission meeting.

Other plans call for a kraut-eating contest, “Kraut Queen” contest, sauerkraut-related food vendors and a carnival midway. Fireworks are planned for June 20.

Revenue-generator

Park Manager Jim Svoboda approached the Joint Park Commission in October about bringing the festival back as a way to raise money for the park and to hold a community-based event.

“This will hopefully lay the groundwork for possibly other events to come out to the park, once they see that we’re able to … host these events,” he said.

Officials expect ticket prices to be in the $8 range for adults and children 11 and older, and free for children 10 and younger.

No tax dollars will be used to fund the festival, with sponsorships, vendor fees and revenue generated from the event used to offset costs.

Organizers are in talks with vendors such as Oscar Meyer and Klement’s about sponsorships, Stibeck said. They are also trying to obtain a liquor license to allow Jägermeister to sponsor a stage and serve its product.

Commission members said they appreciated the amount of work put in to bring the festival back from the dead. Stibeck, meanwhile, said he is happy to see a great tradition return.

“This is going to be great for not only both villages and the taxpayers, but the local businesses around here, and I think just overall good for the area,” Stibeck said. “I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”

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