By Sue Moore
Beer and bratwurst go together, they say in Germany. Or Milwaukee. And certainly in Vicksburg.
The Vicksburg Lions Club has been serving them for 44 years at its annual Summer Festival, scheduled this year on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, July 27, 28, 29 at the community pavilion on N. Richardson Street.
“The Lions, a service club, had been raising money in dribs and drabs by selling light bulbs and newspapers in the 1960s,” said Bob Merrill, a member of the club for 55 years. “Otto Kaak, our local baker and club member, came back from a trip to Germany and insisted that we could make lots more money if we sold beer and brats and had a party in 1973. Now we work our heads off for a week, make lots of money, and we’re done. “Kaak also had a secret recipe for the sauerkraut that has been passed down through the ages, according to John Polasek, head of the kitchen operation for the event.
“We go through nearly 1,400 brats and lots of hot dogs too,” Polasek said. “Bob who is 90 years old, loves to do the cooking. He and I love to chide one another about the best way to cook brats. I like to get them nice and plump by grilling them to 150 degrees and then hold them in the roasters to keep them juicy. Bob says I don’t cook them long enough and use too much grilling oil, but that’s not true. He likes to do the cooking and would do it all day and all night if he didn’t get tired. He even bought a new grill to loan to the club this year. Now we can get 60 brats on it at one time rather than the 40-45 we were grilling.”
Soft drinks, water and hot dogs are available in the Lions Club trailer next to the pavilion. The beer has its own trailer to keep everything cold in a tent beside the pavilion. Wrist bands are issued to those over 21 who wish to buy a beer. “Everyone will be there enjoying food and beverages in a wonderful setting at the Community Pavilion,” Polacek said.