In spite of necessary modifications due to COVID-19 social distancing precautions, the people of Visitation Parish at Verboort are celebrating and expressing gratitude for the success of their 86th annual Sausage & Sauerkraut Dinner. The event, which is a fundraiser for the parish’s Visitation Catholic School, is held on the first Saturday of November. This year, that day fell on Nov. 7.
The Verboort Sausage & Sauerkraut Dinner has been held every year since 1934 and is a prominent tradition in Washington County. Usually, the event — a festival, really — features an arts and crafts bazaar, bingo, a performance by the school choir, and a biergarten (with stein holding contest) in addition to the dinner of plated meals. And just what is a plate loaded with? Sausage and sauerkraut, of course, with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, “five-ingredient salad,” a roll, and applesauce. A slice of pie is included for dessert. Nearly all the delicious food is made from scratch using locally sourced ingredients in an on-site, industrial kitchen, custom-built for the Sausage Dinner.
Then, along came 2020. Because of the pandemic, the in-person merrymaking, dining, and socializing that characterize the event just weren’t options. The large force of community volunteers who make the dinner happen every year weren’t about to let COVID-19 restrictions slow them down, though. True, there’d be no craft fair, bingo, or biergarten. True, no one would be seated in the parish dining hall. However, other important parts of the tradition would be alive and well. The fellowship of the hardworking volunteers. The sense of community (the Sausage Dinner’s fare is an outgrowth of the Dutch heritage of many Verboort residents). The raising of funds for the school. And, of course, the tasty food itself.
Instead of tables hosting neighbors sitting side by side, a plan was devised for drive-through pick up exclusively. Further, all sales were handled in advance by a newly-established website. This applied to the plated dinners, some baked goods, and the bulk packages of both sausage and sauerkraut in pre-measured quantities the festival has always offered for folks to purchase and take home.
“The first day the online sales went live, on Sept. 15, we had close to $75,000 in purchases all in one day,” said Visitation Parish’s priest, Father Michael Vuky. “We were able to sell out a month later on the 22,000 pounds of bulk sausage packed in 3, 9, and 15-pound bags as well as 50 barrels of sauerkraut packaged in 1 quart, 2 quart, and 1 gallon containers.”
The bulk orders placed via the Web could be picked up at the Visitation campus on Nov. 5 and 6. The process was social-distancing compliant as customers remained in their cars. On the actual festival day, Nov. 7, the dinners packaged to go and bulk products were available for pick up. Again, drive-through only. In total, 3,982 dinners were served and all the offered goods sold out.
We are proud that we have such a great fan base and following and we hope next year to be able to welcome everyone for an in-person 87th festival on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. So everyone has a year to strengthen their triceps for the stein holding contest! — Father Michael Vuky
The Verboort Sausage & Sauerkraut Dinner by the numbers:
- 86 years and going strong.
- Over 500 community volunteers.
- 15 tons of sausage made and smoked.
- 62 barrels (50 gallons apiece) of sauerkraut produced.
- 400 gallons of applesauce cooked.
- Well over 8,000 plates served (typically) in addition to bulk sales.