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Brats and Chocolate in Wisconsin
Two Big Memorial Day Events
By Ken Kugler
On Memorial Day Weekend, we thank those who have served and still are serving our county. It's also the start of the festival season in Wisconsin and "The World's Largest Brat Fest" is one of the first and largest of the season. Yes, I said Brats!
Started back in 1983 by the Metcalfe family, it soon turned into the largest fund raiser for local charities. THe festival is 4 days of brats, music, celebrity cashiers and a carnival held on Willow Island on the grounds of The Alliant Energy Center in Madison WI.
The event set a world record in 2010 for selling 209,376 brats sold. 2011 was down a little with only 159,804 sold.
The World's Largest Brat Fest started in front the Metcalfe family grocery store with one grill and a vision to give back the community. Brat Fest stayed at the store untill 2004 when the reached a milestone of 189,432 brats sold, outgrowing the parking lot. The festival moved to Willow Island the next year.
This year they sold their 3 millionth brat and over the years they have raised just over $1 million for charities.
Brat Fest is run by an all-volunteer group and depends upon almost 5,000 volunteers each year to put on the event including set up to cooking, sales and clean up after the event. This year 96 different charities received a portion of the proceeds going to local organizations.
There are 4 stages of free entertainment sponsored by local companies & radio stations. Other sponsors include Johnsonville Brats, Oscar Mayer Hot Dogs who brought the Wienermobile to view, Tofurky Veggie Brats, Heniz, Pepsi, Bud Light, Capital Brewery and the Fireworks were sponsored by Mr. Ed's Magical Midway, the carnival provider.
Mr. Ed's Magical Midway provided the rides along with equipment from A & P Shows. The midway looked great and was even bigger than last year with some 24 rides, 14 game trailers, 10 game stands and 3 food stands including a brand new Funnel Cakes stand.
The midway included the Century Wheel, Scooters, Hi-Roller, Spin Out, to the Gravitron, Zipper and A & P Show's new ride a Tivoli Force 10, just what the doctor ordered after eating a few too many brats. There were also plenty of rides for the kids.
Brat Fest has been voted "Best Outdoor Festival" three years in a row (2008, 2009, 2010) by the readers of Madison.com. Whether rain or shine brat fest always goes on, people come out because there is no charge to park and there is no admission fee
What can be better than Brats? How about Chocolate? Yes, I said Chocolate! In Burlington, WI the same weekend is Chocolate Fest, 2011. Everything to do about Chocolate, Food and Carnival rides, Yummy!
Chocolate Fest 2011 is in it 25th year and showing no signs of slowing down. The city was sued by Hershey for using the appellation "Chocolate City USA". Burlington is home to a lrge Nestle chocolate factory.
With events like Project Yum-Way, a chocolate eating contest, Chocolate Chunk Dig, Choc-O-Lympics, The Chocolate Experience and the Chocolate Indulgence Wine Event along with free music entertainment, vendors, other food and carnival rides, this an event not to be missed event.
The festival was created in 1987 to thank Nestle Foods for 20 years of having its plant in Burlington, WI. It also served to bring in tourists into the city. Nestle stepped in and help plan and market the event. Local volunteers have brought this event to an even higher level.
The festival has had is up and downs but thanks to local charities and volunteers, 950+ people working the 4 day event keep it moving along. In 1999 a new board took over to ensure Chocolate Fest would last long into the future although they still face many challenges.
The different events were fun to watch, Project Yum-Way is an event where designers race against the clock to create wearable fashion using only candy bar wrappers. Chocolate Eating contest challenged participants to eat as many candies bars as they could but first the candy must be unwrapped. The kids could indulge in the Chocolate Chunk Dig to find hidden treasures cast into 30 lb. chunks of solid chocolate using a hammer and chisel. Chocolate Experience is a taste of chocolates from around the world, teaching how to taste the difference using texture, smell, look and over all taste.
The Chocolate Indulgence Wine Event is one thing that can't be missed. Tickets for the event must be purchased in advance due to limited space. Tickets can be ordered online on the festival's website. An evening of wine & chocolate pairings follows along with a beer tasting, shopping and musical entertainment. The Chocolate Fest Fireworks brings an end to a perfect evening.
After gorging themselves on chocolate, may head over the to midway for a quick spin on rides like the Tilt-A-Whril, Power Surge or the Feuerball and just hope all that chocolate stays down.
The Burlington Rotary Club sponsors the Midway provided by NAME, North American Midway Entertainment (Farrow Shows Unit #1) The show had 31 rides, 18 Games trailers, 10 Game stands and 7 food stands with Kelley Concessions providing the games.
NAME had a Century Wheel equipped with LED lights which looked great at night and was the center piece of the midway. Other rides like 1001 Nachts, Scooters, Yo-Yo, Carousel, Family Swinger, Silly Seas Fun House, Tea Cups and Fun Slide rounded out the midway.
Proceeds from Chocolate Fest are served up to over 60 different local charities.