It’s that time of year again: the end of October. And what does that mean to a select few individuals? It’s time to contact Nob Hill Bar & Grill to see if owner Greg is going to rent a bus for the trip to the annual Verboort Sausage Festival. Every year someone will ask me where the festival is, and my only response is: “Verboort!…You know, a town in Oregon.” I once had a women inform me one that there was no such place. I replied, “Oh my God! Where have I been going for the last 26 years?!”
Verboort was named after early settler Father William Verboort in 1876, and founded by six Dutch Catholic families who had traveled from Holland to Wisconsin. Unhappy with the soil there, they bought 550 acres of land in the Verboort area and shared a large house. The annual Verboort Sausage and Sauerkraut Festival, founded in 1934, is held on the first Saturday in November; proceeds go to the upkeep of the church school. The festival, with its sausage and sauerkraut dinner, attracts between 7,800 to 10,000 people each year, while the line for purchasing bulk sausage and sauerkraut starts forming four or five hours before sunrise. In 2008, 15 tons of sausage and 2,000 pounds of sauerkraut were produced for the event. The sausage is smoked using green vine maple wood ( thank you Wikipedia ). Yes! It’s a big event. Hundreds of volunteers are organized and do a great job. We’re talking about road guards, valets, servers, ticket takers, vendors, and even shuttle bus drivers. The simple logistics of getting that many people into a small town along a narrow road…Well, every year I am impressed.
For most people who attend, this is a family affair with lots of kids running around and games for them to play. This is fine for most folks who attend the ‘bazaar’ and visit the pastry shack or play bingo, but not so much for the ‘Nobby Gang’. Our basic motto is to start drinking early and finish up late (say, 11am to Midnight). We arrive at the Nobby about 2 hours before the bus leaves, allowing us enough time to get our ‘game face’ on, and warm up for the main attraction. Greg will announce that, “This is not a sprint race, it’s an endurance run. So for God’s sake, Pace yourself.” Of course there is beer, wine and whatnots on the bus as well. That way we can maintain the same high level of consumption that we have already started (we’re professionals). We always make a stop at the pioneer cemetery before entering town inorder to pay our respects to Greg’s family and give the group a chance for a photo. Last year the bus had a potty on board, so no more ‘tinkling’ on the relatives.
Eventually we get back on the road and cruise into town. Greg gets off at the church and buys the meal tickets while the rest of us head for the Hunt and Gun Club a couple of miles down the road. I guess they don’t want a bunch of ‘beered-up’ sausage eaters mingling with the kiddies, not to mention the gun fire (just joshing). The Hunt & Gun Club is where they set up the beer garden and have adult type activities, i.e. drinking and watching college football in the shooting warm-up shack.
Most people hang outside and warm themselves by the fire, play horseshoe, meet new friends, or just plain stand around and power drink. Not me baby, I don’t do any of those things. (Well, I partake in the drinking part.) Did I happen to mention that not only is Greg of a Dutch heritage, but I am as well, making me a tad bit ‘thrifty’. When it comes to drinking at the festival, one must first stand in line to buy drink tokens, then stand in another line to get a beer. Not me baby! I stay on the bus and drink…It’s free dude! I usually tell everybody that I am staying behind to help the driver “clean up” the bus after our one hour ride. Yeah Right! Every year,however, more and more people catch on and drift back to sit on the bus with me. I get comments like, “Gee it’s cold out there” or “I need to get something out of my bag.” Who are they kidding. One of these years, Greg is going to simply park the bus alongside the Nobby and never leave for the festival. After 9 -10 hours of drinking, he will just tell people they went and “had a great time”. Spread a little mustard on their shirt and put a sausage in their pocket, and they’ll never know. (Umm…..pocket sausage…)
It takes about four/five hours from the time Greg buys our meal tickets, to the time they call our number. We are usually in the 5,000-6,000 range. We board the shuttle bus and head back to the church. (Well most of us do, anyway.) Have you ever tried to round-up 30 people who have been drinking since 11am, and it is now 5 o’clock? (Not so easy, is it?) Before we fall off…I mean…get off the bus, Greg makes one last plea for decorum while having dinner. The majority of the servers are local kids from the church school and don’t need to be bombarded by a bunch of drunken ‘nudnicks’.
Not all the meals are served by children. When it comes to getting more sausage & sauerkraut, everybody’s favorite has to be to be Stephanie. (She’s no kid.)
I knew there was a reason for my being Dutch and I just found that reason, holding a bowl of sauerkraut. (True love in the making.)
Finally, when the last sausage has been stuffed down and you surprise yourself by having both apple and lemon meringue pie for dessert, finding the bus is only one of the hurdles you will face. The simple act of walking is actually the toughest part. Every year I see more and more festival goers wearing stretch pants (those cheaters!). Did some people really eat that much, or did they line their pockets with zip-lock bags of sausage as an emergency snack on the way home? A little of both, I think. I’ve seen some ‘big boys’ have a hamburger at the Nobby before the bus leaves, eat at the church, and then slide back to the Nobby later that evening for a ‘tank topper’.
Speaking of the bus ride back into town, this is a major photo-op and one of my favorite activities is capturing drunk people, stuffed to the gills, falling asleep all over each other. Most folks don’t like having their picture taken, especially drunken ones.
After a few flashes of my camera the general tone of the crowd is, “Put that away, or it’s going out the window!” A couple more quick snaps and I comply. Besides, you can’t take photos and drink…not very well anyway.
Upon arriving back at The Nobby, most of the ‘rookie drinkers’ head for the Tri-Met bus or call their wives to come fetch them. Not me, nor my pals. A forty-five minute bus ride has a way of sobering up a person (we’re thirsty again). Well yes, there was plenty of beer on the bus, but they don’t count. Most of the drinking on the way home is just a way to pass the time. Serious drinking calls for someplace where you can fall off a bar stool. Can’t do that on a bus!
If you find yourself with nothing to do the first Saturday in November, I recommend you get a designated driver and head out to Verboort. I would tell you how to get on the Nob Hill Bar & Grill bus, but you would stand a better chance of becoming a ‘Freemason’. You know… secret society…runs the world…the ‘History Channel’…oh, forget about it!
“There are no feathers on my lobster,” by Rob