World’s biggest wine fest starts today

by Petra Lessoing
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The City of Bad Dürkheim along the German Wine Street will start its traditional “Wurstmarkt,” known as the world’s biggest wine fest, today. For the 596th time, the event will take place on the fest grounds next to the “Dürkheimer Fass,” the world’s biggest wine barrel, which actually houses a restaurant. If used as a barrel, it could hold 1.7 million liters of wine.

Organizers expect about 600,000 visitors from all over the world.

The annual wine fest will be celebrated in two parts: from today through Tuesday, and from Sept. 14 to 17.

Wurstmarkt features a big amusement park with many rides, food and candy booths, fest tents, and a wine village with wine tents. There will also be two fireworks displays, at 9 p.m. Tuesday and Sept. 17.

Almost 300 ride owners and vendors will be available in the amusement park set up on the 45,000-square-meter festival grounds.

Rides will include a giant Ferris wheel, a roller coaster called Wild Mouse, and fast rides such as Sky Dance, Hot Shot, Take-Off, Top Spin and Happy Sailor. The Haunted Mansion will make its first appearance, and Future World and Psychodelic will offer trips to the future and the past. Another novelty at the Wurstmarkt will be Konga, a giant swing with a flying altitude of 45 meters.

The fest will begin at 5 p.m. today with a concert in front of the Kurhaus (official spa building). At 5:30 p.m. a parade with musicians, vintners and officials will lead from the Kurhaus to the festival grounds, where the Wurstmarkt officially opens at 6 p.m.

The Wurstmarkt, meaning sausage fair, is more than 500 years old. It received its name from the fact that early fest goers ate enormous amounts of sausage during the event in the first part of the 19th century.

However, the main attraction of the fest are 36 little wine tents called “Schubkärchler,” wheelbarrows, because vintners rolled wine barrels on wheelbarrows up to Michelsberg hill to quench pilgrims’ thirst in the 15th century.

Each year at the end of September on Michael’s day, pilgrims visited the little chapel on top of the hill, which resulted in market activities with many vendors selling their goods on the hill and along the streets leading up to the chapel. When church dignitaries no longer accepted this type of pilgrimage, market activities were relocated to the bottom of Michelsberg, and the “sausage fair” was born.

While vendors lost in importance throughout the years, amusement features became more and more important. In the year 1830, there was a circus, fire-eater, puppet theater, riding school, showmen and musicians.

In the year 1910, city officials decided to celebrate the fest earlier in September and no longer on Michaels’ day, because of better weather.

Ever since 1985, Wurstmarkt celebrations have taken place for nine days.

During World War II, the event didn’t take place, and after the war, in 1947, a fall fest has been celebrated instead. In 1948, there was a fish market due to the lack of meat.

Vendors sold fish sandwiches and fish wurst. On top of that, each visitor was allowed only one bottle of wine.

The first regular Wurstmarkt after the war took place in 1949.

The little wine tents (Schubkärchler) will open at 10 a.m. each day. Various bands perform party music, traditional jazz, rock, pop and German folks music in the fest tents.

For more information, visit

The German railroad company, Deutsche Bahn, offer rides from Kaiserslautern to Bad Dürkheim every 30 minutes.

Passengers have to change trains in Neustadt.

Tickets cost €20.50 for two to five passengers. Tickets are available at the ticket machines; just touch the VRN screen, choose Bad Dürkheim and then click on Wurstmarkt-Ticket.

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