2014 the final year for Vancouver Sausage Fest

St. Joseph Catholic School fundraiser has been major community event for decades

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

Say goodbye to Sir Links A Lot.

This is the last year of the lederhosen-clad mascot, the last year of sausages on a stick and festival rides.

The Vancouver Sausage Fest will sizzle away for good after its 43rd annual celebration in September.

The event, which helps raise funds for St. Joseph Catholic School and other charities, had a good run, but it’s time for something different, organizers said.

But first, it will go out in a fat-popping blaze of glory in honor of the school’s 60th anniversary, said Carrie Moschetti, pastoral assistant for administration at the school and parish.

“It was a decision made by the councils and the fathers,” Moschetti said. “It will still be the same time frame for the final event. And it will be part of the 60th anniversary celebration for the school this year.”

The festival, which draws between 25,000 and 30,000 people annually, had been a big money maker for the school for many years, but it wasn’t really keeping up with the need, she said.

“It made money, but not so much in recent years,” Moschetti said.

The theme was also a bit out of date, said Judy McMorine, development director for the school.

“It’s seen its time,” she said.

Gene Munson, one of the festival’s founders, said he thinks the festival’s popularity and draw declined in recent years.

“Am I sad about it? I don’t know,” Munson said. “That may sound like a strange answer. I think they overspent, overcharged people. They eliminated so much. They got rid of the dinner and some of the entertainment. The beer garden used to always have live entertainment. One year, the Kingsmen played. They don’t have any of that anymore.”

At one point, when Munson was chairman, the festival brought in about $100,000 a year. That number had dropped to a little over a quarter of that in recent years, Munson said.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt said he’s sad to see the event go, but also understands the financial realities.

“Over the years, I’ve enjoyed many a fun time at the Sausage Fest, it’s become a community event that a lot of people look forward to every summer,” Leavitt said. “It’s not surprising, though. I think we’re seeing more and more organizations revisit the purpose and vision of the fundraising events they support.”

The school will likely replace it with another big community event, although officials haven’t yet worked out the details, McMorine said.

“I’m sure we will,” she said. “We’ve been talking a lot about that.”

The festival started in 1972 when, due to diminishing funds, the school’s pastor grew concerned that he would have to get rid of seventh- and eighth-grade classes. Parish members got together and created the fundraising festival as a way to keep them going.

About 8,000 to 9,000 people showed up in the first year, which was enough for the school to save the two grades. The festival has continued to support about 500 students, but it’s also grown to be one of the biggest events in Clark County.

The school and parish are in the process of forming committees to decide what sort of event will replace it.

“There are a lot of intelligent people at the church,” Leavitt said. “I think about lots of events around the county that have been set aside. You know, community interests evolve, fashions change. I’m sure that St. Joe’s will come up with something intelligent to replace Sausage Fest.”