With the 2019 Oregon Alpenfest in the history books, it’s time to begin raising money for the 2020 event. One of the chief fundraisers is Alpenmeister Chuck Anderson’s Wurstwagen.
“All summer long, we sell bratwursts, mostly in downtown Joseph on Saturdays as a fundraiser for Alpenfest,” Anderson said. “Then, when there are special events like the car shows or a music festival, sometimes we go to those because obviously there’s going to be more traffic.”
He estimated the Wurstwagen is open about 60 days a year, staffed by Anderson, his wife and Alpenfest volunteers.
The menu is limited, but quite in keeping with Alpenfest. Bratwursts at the wagon sell for $6 for the sandwich.
The Wurstwagen’s history coincides with the modern Alpenfest. It is a bit of a reincarnation of a soda-and-bratwurst concession operated by some of the founders of the original Alpenfest, Joe and Rita Ehrler, who still live in Joseph. They spoke highly of Anderson’s operation and his efforts at the renewed Alpenfest.
“Chuck does a wonderful job,” Rita Ehrler said.
Anderson revived Alpenfest, and along with it, the Wurstwagen, in 2012. “We started borrowing a Coca-Cola trailer or Pepsi trailer from the distributors in La Grande and we would sell bratwurst out of them,” Anderson said. “Then, three years ago, I noticed that this concession cart was for sale near Ontario, Ore. It was a shaved ice concession, painted a light blue color. The family that owned it decided they didn’t want to do shaved ice anymore. My wife, Carmen, and I made an offer. Although it was less than what they were asking, we considered the difference to be a donation to Alpenfest. So, they got a little bit of a tax deduction from that.”
But a blue color and shaved ice hardly went with Alpenfest.
A member of the Alpenfest board of directors, Calina Ide, had experience painting stage sets. Ide and her mother painted it red, with little flowers and a hand-painted sign. It looked a lot more Bavarian.
Anderson finds the wagon a profitable venture. He said they usually raise about $3,000 gross each year, half of which goes to Alpenfest after covering their costs.
He said the materials used are all procured locally. The brats come from the Hines Meat Co. in La Grande.
The sauerkraut comes from the grocery store in Joseph. They make it right there with their special recipe. The buns and condiments come from the Dollar Stretcher.
Anderson values the idea of everything going back into the community.
“You bet, that’s what we’re here for, to support the community,” he said. “We calculate that with all the people who come to town for Alpenfest, we contribute about $150,000 each year at the end of the tourist season to the local economy.”