Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Last month my wife Sandi and I were delighted to be invited to attend Brat Days in Sheboygan, Wisconsin as guests of the great folks at Johnsonville. We had a great time, so I thought that I would share a quick trip report.

Each year Brat Days is held the first weekend of August in Sheboygan's Kiwanis Park. Sheboygan, the home of Johnsonville, is a very charming small-ish town of nearly 50,000 located about an hour north of Milwaukee on the shore of Lake Michigan. It's exactly the kind of place where you'd imagine that a festival which celebrates brats should be held, as it has been for 60 years.

We arrived in Milwaukee Friday afternoon and enjoyed the drive to Sheboygan. I spent some time in Wisconsin (mainly passing through) while I was stationed in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I hadn't been back since leaving there in 1994. It was nostalgic to reminisce a bit and share some of my memories with my wife. Wisconsin oozes with old-school Americana and German influence.

We stayed at the lovely Blue Harbor Resort which sits on the beach.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Our room overlooked the lake and the weather was absolutely perfect all weekend.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Friday evening we joined our host, Stephanie Dlugopolski, her daughter, Brandon Gunning (Tailgating Ideas contributor) and his wife Katie for dinner at a local farm-to-table eatery where we enjoyed good food and conversation.

We were up early Saturday morning to participate in the Brat Days parade. And when I say participate, that means in a very cool convertible emblazoned with our names. Our driver, Paul, was great.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

The parade starts in downtown Sheboygan and ends at the festival grounds in Kiwanis Park. It has a great feel of that old-school Americana that I mentioned earlier.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

We were very fortunate to be right behind the University of Wisconsin Badger Marching Band. It was pretty neat. Sandi was a member of a very successful marching band in high school, so she really dug it.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

The band also performed at the festival grounds.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

We wandered around the park a bit and hung out at the Johnsonville karaoke booth while we waited for the brat eating contest to begin. At the booth folks could record their own music video version of the "Don't Pierce The Brat" anthem for a chance to win $5,000 and a year's supply of brats. You can see the entries here.

Stephanie tried her best to get me to give it a go, but it wasn't meant to be. Instead, I made my own version when I got home, but I missed the entry deadline. As you'll see, I didn't have much of a chance anyhow. It goes without saying that my day job is in no danger.


The brat eating contest was quite the spectacle to behold.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

When the sausage settled the winner had eaten twenty (yes, 20) brats in ten minutes.

As expected, the festival features brats in many permutations. We tried the brat egg rolls, and of course I had to have a "double brat", which is two full-sized sausages on the requisite Sheboygan roll (essentially a kaiser). I naturally had mine loaded with kraut, onions and mustard. My German grandmother would have been proud.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

A brat festival of this magnitude clearly requires a boat load o' brats. I asked Mike, the man who has been in charge of brat cookery for many years, how many brats he and his crew cook for Brat Days. If memory serves he said that it was about ten thousand. Talk about putting the heat to the meat!

I was intrigued by the ingenious grilling method that the guys use. It's a giant charcoal-fueled grill that must stretch at least 70 feet. It's built right on top of the ground using a steel frame and sheet metal.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

The ingenious part is how they flip all of those brats. They lay another grate (with handles) over the sausages and flip the whole batch at once. Pretty cool, eh? I watched as they flipped several hundred in a matter of seconds.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

We had a blast at Brat Days! If you ever have the opportunity to go, do it. It's a wonderful family-friendly festival in a wonderful location. Oh, and did I mention that there's sausage?

Disclaimer: The trip was paid for by Johnsonville. I'm proud to call them a partner. Thanks, Steph!

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4 Comments:
Anonymous Amber said...
What a great event! Looked beautiful there! Great Job John!
Blogger John Dawson said...
Thanks, Amber!
Blogger Chris said...
You did a great job describing the event, lots of fun. No pictures of you on the slides in the Blue Harbor water park ? ha ha
Blogger John Dawson said...
Thanks, Chris. I didn't swim or hit the indoor water park. Sandi and I simply enjoyed ourselves sans-children. ;-)

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