As history will relate it, 2011 in Wisconsin probably won't be remembered as the Year of the Proliferating Bratfests, but it's worth noting that in Madison the number did increase from one to four -- for reasons other than the sheer love of the wurst.
The long-running World's Largest Bratfest, an annual fundraiser featuring Johnsonville brats, was joined by the Alt Bratfest, Wurst Times and the People's Bratfest. These events were sparked at first by unease in some quarters regarding Johnsonville's financial backing of Gov. Scott Walker's campaign. The fests, though, tried to stress the positive as they developed, as ways to highlight local food products. It's that angle that's bringing back the People's Bratfest, says organizer Bill Fetty of the Autonomous Solidarity Organization, a group devoted to community building and voter education.
Last year's People's Bratfest was a learning experience. The Madison Marathon, happening on the same day, was "gracious enough" to lend the fest some of its space on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard downtown, says Fetty, but this year he has arranged for a bigger area on the Library Mall on Saturday, May 26. Last year the fest sold 3,000 some bratwurst for charity and had 6,000 visitors, says Fetty, and for the inaugural year, "we felt good about the total."
The People's Bratfest is currently in negotiations for a bratwurst supplier. Fetty anticipates brats will come from Stoddard's, of Cottage Grove, again, but would like also to have a variety of locally made wurst available. (Fetty confesses his favorite local brat is the blue cheese brat made by the Jenifer Street Market: "We're so spoiled for choice" around here, he notes.)
Also returning will be an item that received a lot of positive feedback last year: non-fried cheese curds. Also returning: Sprecher root beer. New this year: baklava. "More grills, shorter lines, more variety" is Fetty's battle cry for 2012.
As for politics, "we'd like a purple event," for all people, Fetty says. He'd like to see folks sitting down with their food and having conversations with their neighbors about the issues facing the state. Proceeds will go to groups such as those that support family farming; Fetty also hopes to establish a microgrant to be awarded to college students who are "interested in social justice." More information as it develops at thepeoplesbratfest.com.