For the second straight year, Madisonians will get to pick a political wiener over Memorial Day weekend. At least two of the upstart, protest-fueled brat fests from last year will return in addition to established heavyweight World's Largest Brat Fest, organizers said.
"We'll see if the sequel lives up to its predecessor," said Bill Fetty, chair of Autonomous Solidarity Organization, the year-old volunteer organization that puts on The People's Bratfest.
"The more the merrier," said Tim "Brat Man" Metcalfe, co-owner of the grocery store chain that sponsors World's Largest Brat Fest, which will return for its four-day run that weekend, its 30th anniversary.
The People's Bratfest, which drew about 6,000 people last year to its one-day party just off Capitol Square, will be held May 26, a Saturday, moving down the street this year to State Street Mall, a two-block stretch near where the UW-Madison meets State Street.
"It's right in the heart of our dual constituencies," Fetty said. The Dane County Farmers' Market on Capitol Square supplies much of the food and drinks for the party and the university is home to some of the protesters who make up the organization.
Wurst Times festival also will be back, this time on Sunday, May 27, returning to its circuit of three taverns along East Washington Avenue: High Noon Saloon, Brink Lounge and Brass Ring. The event drew about 1,500 people last year but more are expected this year as it's moving to Sunday and won't compete with The People's Bratfest as it did last year, said organizer Rodney Knoke.
"We'll have two times as many brats this year so we don't run out," he said with a laugh. "Although we'll still probably run out."
Organizers for another event held last year, Alt Bratfest at Orton Park, could not be reached for comment. It's unknown if it will be back this year.
The protest bratfests sprung up last spring as an alternative to the long-running World's Largest, which has raised more than $1 million for charity. Prior to then it had attracted little controversy.
However, the fest no longer passed muster for some in the wake of the historic protests against Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to strip collective bargaining rights from most state employees. Employees of sponsor Johnsonville Sausage made financial contributions to elect Walker.
The three protest bratfests were cobbled together quickly and offered people an array of brats from Wisconsin companies with no known ties to Walker, drinks and other munchies, with proceeds going to charity. While the protest festivals had bigger-than-expected turnout, World's Largest Brat Fest also drew its typically robust crowd although overall attendance suffered due to a Sunday washout, Metcalfe said.
Organizers of the protest festivals were encouraged by the first year's success and decided an encore run was needed.
"I think the town is willing to support us, so why not?" said Knoke.