One, single, unbeatable sausage

Since 1972, St. Joseph’s annual fundraiser has become a tradition that doesn’t fade

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter


photoDeep-fried elephant ears are among the traditional delights at the Sausage Festival at St. Joseph Catholic School and Church.

(/The Columbian)

If you go

• What: Vancouver Sausage Fest, with food, carnival rides, beer garden, arts and crafts, entertainment and bingo.

• Where: 6500 Highland Drive, Vancouver, 98661

• When: 5-11 p.m. Sept. 9; 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sept. 10; 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 11.

• Cost: $2, or $1 with a donation of nonperishable food for the Vancouver Fire Department Christmas Food Drive.

• Information: Vancouver Sausage Fest.

Ask the organizers about the variety of sausages at Sausage Fest and you’ll get an evasive answer.

The elephant ears are great, they said.

So are the Heath bar crunch cakes, cookies, breads, ribs, burgers and corn on the cob.

The carnival rides are cool, too, as is the beer garden.

Five Guys Named Moe are going to play, they added. And the finale of Southwest Washington’s Got Talent will be held there Sunday.

But, um, how about all those sausage types?

“We just have one German sausage,” Kat Bocci, the event chair, admitted after some prodding. “It’s just a basic German sausage that’s made to order for us from a company in Eastern Oregon.”

Yup. Just one. And it’s not bratwurst, she added.

Sausage Fest has always had just one sausage type — since the first event was held in 1972, said Bev Hooten, a volunteer and one of four founders of what has grown into one of Vancouver’s biggest annual events.

“Well, we tried adding a hot sausage one year but it just didn’t go over well,” Hooten said.

At least they have several ways to prepare the thousands of uniform German snacks.

While visiting the site’s dozens of booths, you’ll find vendors selling them on a stick, in rye bread, on a bun with sauerkraut or even as part of a more formal sit-down dinner on Saturday afternoon.

And the festival must be doing something right, even without a proper brat. It draws between 25,000 and 30,000 people each year and helps raise funds for St. Joseph Catholic School and other charities.

“Before that first year, the pastor called everyone together and said he was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to keep the seventh and eighth grades at St. Joseph because there wasn’t enough money,” Hooten said. “We wanted to do something to help that was different so we created Sausage Fest. And it worked. We were able to save those grades.”

The festivities seem to have a universal appeal this time of year. Sausages and German music pair well with the approach of Oktoberfest. And the expectation of fall weather always seems to draw people together, Bocci said.

“It’s not just about St. Joseph’s, it’s about the community,” Bocci said. “It’s kind of like a big reunion. You can go into the festival beer garden and see your neighbors, your old classmates from high school, your friends.”

The entertainment keeps them coming, too.

Beyond the headliners, events will include Irish dancers, a hula hoop contest, the River City Cloggers and Hooten’s personal favorite, a gospel music Mass on Saturday evening.

“It’s marvelous,” Hooten said. “The roof comes off at points, the music is so good. That’s one of my favorite things to do.”