With this year’s Ohio Sauerkraut Festival only days away, cooks are in the kitchen preparing their famous sauerkraut dishes — everything from pizza to fudge, sauerkraut balls and cabbage rolls. Handcrafters are also readying to showcase an array of popular items such as jewelry, cutting boards, floral arrangements, holiday items and apparel.
Ohio Sauerkraut Festival hours in downtown Waynesville are Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The 44th annual event will feature about 500 booths, and about 460 of those are crafters from 25 different states, including Hawaii. Forty nonprofit food vendors will also participate.
Known as one of Southwest Ohio’s premier festivals, organizers said thousands of volunteers work year-around to prepare for the highly anticipated Warren County event. More than 30 different festival committees work throughout the year to organize the various aspects. Many of the volunteers work two or three shifts over the course of the weekend for multiple organizations — churches, schools, youth leagues, band and athletic boosters as well as other community nonprofits.
On Sunday, a team of volunteers from St. Augustine Catholic Church in Waynesville began to make 13,000 cabbage rolls for the weekend.
Cabbage Roll Chairman George Gehring, St. Augustine Catholic Church, who operates one of the largest food booths at the festival, said crews have been working 14-hour days, with three shifts per day, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. making the cabbage rolls. He said 10 to 12 volunteers work per shift.
“It’s going excellent. The cabbage rolls are homemade and we start from scratch,” Gehring said, “We use 91 5-gallon buckets of sauerkraut and 95 50-pound bags of cabbage to make our cabbage rolls.”
Single cabbage rolls are available for $4 each. Guests can also purchase cold packs of three to five cabbage rolls per package, which sell for $12 and $20.
“As far as our financial goal this year, we would like to raise $36,000 net. Proceeds go into the general fund for the betterment of the parish,” he said.
In addition to the famous cabbage rolls, more than 8,400 slices of sauerkraut pizza will be served. German sundaes are also overwhelmingly popular.
Over 40 years ago, when the event was founded, it took about 528 pounds of sauerkraut to serve its first 1,500 guests. To prepare for the festivities, today, it requires seven tons of SnowFloss Kraut, which is delivered in a semi-truck for hundreds of thousands of visitors.
“We work on the festival 365 days a year,” said Waynesville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dawn Schroeder. “Everyone in the community is involved and we all come together to make sure this is a success.”
“We work not just as a team, but as a family, and everyone works so well together within the community. The school, village, township and county — they all help us. It’s amazing to see in a small community that only has 2,800 people with two traffic lights, how we could put together such a fantastic festival. It’s very humbling,” she continued.
Nationwide, the annual festival is currently ranked 29th best on Sunshine Artisan magazine’s list of the top 200 craft shows, officials said. The festival draws attendees from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan as well as Tennessee and Illinois.