One of the largest events held in Warren County will be in Waynesville this weekend as the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival picks up where it left off after forced hiatus due to the pandemic last year.
“The festival is rich in history,” said Kelly Miller, executive director of the Waynesville Chamber of Commerce. “It started off as an idea by a group of merchants who wanted to bring in people so they could sell their goods.”
Miller said the idea grew to add food to the festival, so the local firehouse was enlisted to help serve a meal and someone suggested serving cabbage.
The annual weekend festival celebrating all things sauerkraut balloons Waynesville’s population from less than 3,000 residents to more than 350,000 visitors.
She said one of the reasons for the popularity of the festival is the village’s “charming small-town feel.”
“Locals and out-of-towners love to come here for the weekend,” Miller said.
The festival stretches over a mile along Main Street and off on some side streets in downtown Waynesville. Miller said the festival features more than 400 juried arts and crafts booths and craft vendors from 26 states. She believes the artisans and craftsmen also are a reason that attracts visitors.
The Ohio Sauerkraut Festival serves as a major fundraiser for the community’s nonprofit social and service clubs, youth and sports organizations, churches, school athletics and other local and civic groups that rely on this income each year, she said.
Miller said more than 11,000 pounds of Franks Sauerkraut has been ordered and that 30 specialty food booths operated by the area’s nonprofit organizations will be ready to serve up sauerkraut dishes and treats. The event also features continuous free entertainment on the Central Stage at North and Main streets.
The event is free and there is shuttle bus service from Waynesville High School to the festival.
“It’s amazing to watch people interact and come together at the festival. We welcome guests and we bond the community,” Miller said.
Village Manager Gary Copeland, who also serves as the village’s police chief, said he’s expecting a large crowd this weekend for the festival. In addition to the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival, the Ohio Renaissance Festival in Harveysburg and the Hill Climb in Oregonia will also bring visitors to the immediate area and into Waynesville.
Copeland said the festival and their sponsors cover most of the costs of putting on the festival and does not burden village taxpayers.
“It’s a really good festival,” Copeland said. “It’s good for the merchants and it's good for the community organizations.”
Scott Hutchison of the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau said last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19, as well as cancellations of the Ohio Renaissance Festival and Kings Island’s Halloween Hunt, hurt the 2020 travel season in bringing visitors to the county.
Hutchinson said he’s hoping those fall events do well to recover from the 2020 cancellations.