This festival is the absolute wurst

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First Posted: 7/14/2014

If you love meat, beer and are proud of your Polish or German heritage, then the Poconos’ Wurst Festival is the best place to have a good time this weekend.

After all, where else you can sample a meat that you can’t even pronounce or spell like schweineschnitzel and watch grown men competing to see who has the best beer belly? That sounds like an abs-solutely unique way to have fun.

The Polish and German themed festival, now in its sixth year, features three stages of music, traditional costumed dance performances, crafts, children’s entertainment, ethnic foods and cold brew. But it’s not your ordinary ethnic festival. For instance, there are pig and hot dog races thrown in as well as a beer stein hoisting challenge all with Polka and German music playing in the background.

The Wurst Festival will be held 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Shawnee Mountain Ski Area, East Stroudsburg.

Kevin Furst, social media manager, expects about 5,000 people to attend over the weekend.

The Wurst Festival was an offshoot of Oktoberfest, which Shawnee used to do in the fall. The resort was looking to add more activities to its summer schedule and tailored its Oktoberfest to keep some of its elements like the food and beer and add some unique twists, according to Jim Tost, marketing manager.

Of course, the highlight of the festival is the ethnic foods, specifically, the meat for a festival whose name is taken from the bratwurst.

Food vendors will serve up wursts, wieners, kielbasa, schnitz un knepp, szaszylk, bigos, kiszka, golonka, potato salad, red cabbage, apple strudel, pierogi, sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage and potato dumplings.

But the festival takes the food sampling to another level with instructions on how to make the items at home, said Tost. Nello’s Specialty Meats of Nazareth will offer Old World sausage making samplings and demonstrations three times each day. Owner Nello Loiacono will also grill up specialty products for taste testing and he’ll have recipes to give out.

What truly sets the Wurst Festival apart from its ethnic counterparts is the Bier Stein Olympics which are held both days.

Several competitions are held including the Liter Stein Bucket Race, where teams of four compete in a bier stein water relay where each player will fill the next player’s stein until they overflow the bucket at the end, and Stein Hoisting, which tests a player’s ability to hold a two, 1 liter stein filled to the brim with liquid.

The event began last year is another way in which to add more fun and individuality to the festival, said Tost. “These events get quite a draw,” Furst said. “There’s nothing like it around. And not only are they fun for the competitors, it’s great fun for the audience to watch, too.”

The Beer Belly Contest challenges men to display their stomach. Candidates will be judged on size and personality by the audience. The winner will be crowned the Wurst Fest Best Beer Belly and will receive an honorary beer mug trophy.

All candidates must be at least 21 years of age to participate.

Polka and German music will be played both days. Bands include The Chardon Polka Band, The Austrian Boys, One Man Polka Band, Eddie Derwin & the Polka Naturals and The Apple Strudel Gang. The HSV Bavaria Dancers will perform Bavaria or Tryolian folk dance.

The event is a family friendly one, said Tust, noting that the hours were tailored specifically for families. There is plenty for children to do. Activities include a Puppen Meiser marionette show, Brat Man living statue, rubber duck races, bavarian juggling shows and face painting. A portable climbing wall and a bungee jump have been added this year.