World’s biggest wine festival opens today

by Petra Lessoing
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Courtesy photoFireworks displays are scheduled for tonight and the last day of Wurstmarkt, Sept. 22.
Courtesy photo
Fireworks displays are scheduled for tonight and the last day of Wurstmarkt, Sept. 22.

The world’s biggest wine festival, called the “Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt,” starts today.

For the 598th time, Bad Dürkheim along the German Wine Street will host this traditional fest, enticing about 600,000 visitors from all over the world.

Almost 300 vendors and ride owners will set up shop on the almost 485-square-foot festival grounds next to the “Dürkheimer Fass,” the world’s largest wine barrel. This barrel houses a restaurant, and if it were used as a barrel, it could hold 1.7 million liters of wine.

The annual wine fest will be celebrated in two parts: from today through Tuesday, and from Sept. 19 to 22.

The “Wurstmarkt,” or sausage fair, is almost 600 years old. It received its name from the fact that fest-goers ate enormous amounts of sausage during the event in the first part of the 19th century. However, the main attractions of the fest are its 36 little wine tents, called “Schubkärchler,” or wheelbarrows, because vintners rolled wine barrels on wheelbarrows up to “Monte Sancti Michaeli,” 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. On the way up, vendors sold their goods. Then, church dignitaries no longer accepted this kind of pilgrimage. Market activities were relocated to the bottom of Michelsberg, and the “sausage fair” was born.

In the year 1910, city officials decided to celebrate the fest earlier in September and no longer on Michaels’ day because of better weather. In 1926, the Wurstmarkt got extended by a day, in 1951 by seven, and finally in 1965, the fest was extended by eight days. Since 1985, the fest has been nine days long.

The historical wine tents (Schubkärchler) will open at 10 a.m., and the rides open at noon each day. Rides include merry-go-rounds, auto scooters, a giant Ferris wheel, a roller coaster and fast rides, such as “Take Off,” “Breakdance” and “Hot Shot.” Two haunted mansions, “Horror Lazarett” and “Daemonium,” will provide horror fun. There will be food and candy booths, fest tents with live bands and a wine village with wine tents.

The Wurstmarkt 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 event’s first fireworks display, called “Six Days Left,” will be lit by the current world champion of pyrotechnicians at 9 p.m. Tuesday, and the second one will close out the fest at 9 p.m. Sept. 22.
Trains run from Kaiserslautern to Bad Dürkheim about every 30 minutes until 6 p.m. After 6 p.m., trains run every hour. Passengers have to change trains in Neustadt.

Fest-goers can travel by train from Bad Dürkheim to Kaiserslautern and Landstuhl on additional trains at 10:05 p.m., 10:40 p.m., 11:08 p.m., 12:08 a.m., 12:38 a.m., 1:38 a.m. and 2:38 a.m.
For details on train times, visit or, or get the train schedule at the Window to Rheinland-Pfalz counter in the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center.

For more information on the Wurstmarkt, visit or