Kraut rocks

Waynesville’s Sauerkraut Festival returns

By Allyson B. Crawford

Photo: An aerial view of Waynesville’s North Main Street, where hundreds of thousands check out wares and fare at the annual Sauerkraut Festival

Fall is festival season in Ohio, and the Dayton area is lucky to host many of its fests. One of the biggest is the Sauerkraut Festival, held the second full weekend of October in the Village of Waynesville.

Last year, the festival hosted around 370,000 people, and several hundred thousand are expected again at this year’s event. The festival has no games of chance and no rides. It’s all arts and crafts, food, and entertainment.

Of course, the number one draw is the food, and sauerkraut is the star. The fest started back in 1970, when a merchant planned a sidewalk sale, and someone suggested a sauerkraut dinner be added to the event. Today, a dedicated team of volunteers works consistently throughout the year to produce the annual event.

“We never stop!” Dawn Schroeder says. Schroeder is the executive director of the Waynesville Area Chamber of Commerce. “When we complete this fest, the next day we start preparing for the next
year’s event!”

For most, the number one draw is the food. Offerings include unique items, like sauerkraut brownies and pies, and more traditional offerings, like the German sundae, a layered meal, featuring sauerkraut, potatoes, sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, and an olive on top (no cherry needed). For others, the number one reason to attend the Sauerkraut Festival is the crafts.

“[Patrons] are here early Saturday morning to find the ‘it’ item,” Schroeder explains. “Each year, the ‘it’ item changes, but you can always tell what it is because everyone is carrying it.”

From the vendor perspective, many artisans have been selling their wares at the Sauerkraut Festival for decades now.

Pen-and-ink artist Kathy Gross has been exhibiting and selling her work at the festival for 18 years. Her art started as a hobby and evolved in to a cottage industry.

“We needed a gift for someone in the school that I was involved with,” Gross explains. “We couldn’t think of anything special for a particular lady. Someone suggested I do a drawing of her house. I did draw her house and gave it to her.”

That one gift was the lighting bolt that started Gross’s surprise career. Shortly after presenting the gift, the recipient called and requested a similar drawing for a friend. “[It started] a home business that I could do part time, and it snowballed,” Gross adds.

Gross draws homes and famous buildings from all around the Miami Valley, and that includes Waynesville. For the Sauerkraut Festival, she will display her first limited edition print of the whole village. She also has a series of notecards of the village.

“I work from photographs,” she explains. Gross takes orders all year long, and it takes her three or four days to complete a piece. From now until Christmas, she will draw “more than full time,” not wanting to turn down work or disappoint a customer. And, she takes orders during the Sauerkraut Festival. Gross is always in the same location each year – look for her at booth number 410.

“One of the reasons I’m keeping the Sauerkraut Fest on my schedule is because it’s such a community effort,” Gross says. “For months and months, there are so many volunteers working behind the scenes. It’s a very well run show, and there’s a lot of community charities. They are making cabbage rolls for months ahead of time. They are just so kind to the vendors. I don’t think that’s always recognized.”

Here are some tips, if you want to attend the Sauerkraut Festival: 

1. Pack your patience. There are a lot of other people looking for unique crafts and tasty meals, so you’ll be standing in lines.

2. It takes a little time to park. Shuttle bus parking is provided by the Athletic Boosters at Wayne Local High School on Dayton Road. The shuttle runs all day long, so you can shop, ride the shuttle to your car to deposit your treasures, and then return to the festival.

3. Be adventurous. Try something new. This year, the festival is featuring a Kraut Krawl. For $10, you can buy a T-shirt featuring several food booths on the back. You get to sample something from each booth on the shirt.

The festival takes place from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 8, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, along North Main Street by the Waynesville Area Chamber of Commerce, 10B N. Main St. For more information, please call 513.897.8855 or visit SauerkrautFestival.com.

Allyson B. Crawford lives in Kettering and writes about ’80s metal bands on her daily blog bringbackglam.com. You can usually find her at all sorts of metal shows around Ohio and across the country. Allyson can be reached at AllysonCrawford@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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About Allyson B. Crawford

View all posts by Allyson B. Crawford
Allyson B. Crawford
Allyson B. Crawford lives in Kettering and writes about ’80s metal bands on her daily blog bringbackglam.com. You can usually find her at all sorts of metal shows around Ohio and across the country. Allyson can be reached at AllysonCrawford@DaytonCityPaper.com

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