A (Free) Night to Remember

The-Best-of-Wurstfest-2015_01In the middle of November a couple of years ago, four of my friends and I were feeling claustrophobic in Austin after midterms, so we decided to go on a day trip to New Braunfels for a German festival called “Wurstfest”. When we pulled into town, tacky lederhosen and fake German façades were everywhere, but they couldn’t mask the smell of sausage and beer. As we walked towards the food stands, several people who were leaving started giving us all of their coupons. It turned out that this was the last day of the festival. After exchanging these tickets at the food stands, we found our arms filled with free pitchers of Miller Lite and skewered knackwurst sausage. As we made our way into the beer hall to feast on our bounty, an elderly German band played the Gene Autry dancehall classic, “South of the Border.”

Right as we sat down, however, smoke began to fill the enormous hall from a nearby sausage stand. It turned out that there was a minor fire on the cooker, which was quickly extinguished. While this ended up not being a threat to anyone’s safety, the beer hall was deserted in the frenzy. After a few minutes, one of my more astute friends noted that there was plenty of beer left abandoned on the tables and nobody seemed to be returning. This good fortune added onto our previous stroke of luck left us as very rich men in this fake German village. As our stomachs filled, the band (who were apparently unfazed or maybe even uninformed about the fire) closed their set and the crowd thinned out outside of the beer hall. We realized that it was time to go.

As we were about to leave town, we decided to stop by Gruene Hall because one of our friends had never been. We parked down the block and walked up to the front door, but the bouncer told us that it was a sold out show and that we couldn’t get in. Being the thrifty college opportunists we were, we decided to walk around back to see if there was another entrance. We saw a light from the side of the building and approached it. It was an open door, and through it, stood Willie Nelson, about twenty feet away from us playing his hit, “Crazy” with his full band, and with “Trigger”, his infamous guitar, in his arms.

We were dumbfounded.

None of us ever thought we’d be able to see the Red Headed Stranger play a legendary venue like Gruene Hall. As the song went on, a cop approached us and told us that we could stay for a few more songs before he got in trouble. He also informed us that if Willie invited him to smoke in his tour bus, he wouldn’t feel professionally obligated to say no.

willieATgruenehallAs we got back in the car to go home after the show, I realized that I’d been able to cross off a long-time item on my bucket list, on accident. It was always a dream of mine to see Willie play at Gruene Hall but it was always too expensive for my friends and I or sold out too quickly. While we couldn’t buy tickets to actually go into the dance hall, I’m still grateful for that cop letting us watch the show from the musicians’ entrance, also known as “Willie’s door.”

Willie using the musicians entrance to Gruene Hall, or “Willie’s Door”


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 4, Concert, Texas

8 Responses to A (Free) Night to Remember

  1. Mae

    This was so fun to read. I try to go to Wurstfest every year because it really is so much fun and the beer and sausage are so good. Jealous you got to experience it the “free” route, since I usually end up spending way too much money there. I think Wurstfest is such a fun and cool experience that New Braunfels has to offer, especially because it’s so close to Austin. I loved that y’all stopped at Gruene Hall on the way home, because I’ve done that too, but I’ve never had the fortune to stumble upon Willie Nelson like that. The night y’all had sounds like the best experience ever and I am really jealous of it. Glad someone wrote about Wurstfest like this!

  2. Joseph Schooling

    This was an awesome post! In Singapore, we celebrate Oktoberfest at the club and they serve beers in huge glasses and grill sausages, pretty similar to Wurstfest. There’s also a live band, but without performers as famous as Willie Nelson. It’s nice to hear that the cop allowed you guys to stay at the entrance and listen to Nelson play. I also liked the fact that this “accident” allowed you to cross something off your bucket list. I’ve gotta check out Wurstfest one of these days. The food and drinks look to be amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Paige Hinkle

    This is a really great story! In my hometown we also have a German festival every year to celebrate the German immigrants who founded the town. We also have lots of beer, sausage, and dancing in traditional German attire, but we’ve never had anything like a Willie Nelson concert. It must’ve been so lucky that you happened to walk by Gruene Hall the night he was playing. I can’t imagine how surprised and excited you must’ve been especially if you are a Willie fan. I also didn’t know about “Willie’s door”. It would be interesting to find out if there is a story behind the name.

  4. Katerina Biancardi

    This was so cool to read! Especially, because it was totally unplanned nor expected. When I lived in Ohio, was my parents were big fans of Wurstfest. And your description was really clear and detailed for those who had no idea what it was. So Good job! Every summer with my family we go to New Braunfels to float the river and then go to Gruene Hall, and so when I saw the picture I got super excited. Your experience of seeing Willie was so unique, and if you are a big country music person then like seeing him is definitely a cross off the bucket list!

  5. Lottie Glazer

    So cool. That was so lucky of y’all. Such a crazy opportunity to see Willie so up close and personal (Especially without having to pay haha). Seeing Willie Nelson live has always been on my bucket list as well. I am still waiting to cross it off though. Really cool post to read. I really enjoyed hearing the whole story. Hopefully sometime soon I will be able to tell the same story myself.

  6. Great article Drew. I have never been to Wurstfest, but it sounds like a great experience. Some of my friends went this year and said it was like nothing else they have seen before. It sounds like you and your friends had a very eventful day filled with great music. I think seeing Willie playing through the back door could have been just as much fun as seeing him in the dance hall. It is cool to be able to say you saw a Texas legend play at one of the most popular venues in Texas. Even better you did not have to pay to see him play live, it doesn’t get much better than that.

  7. Adrian Ortiz

    Sounds like a great experience! I have heard a lot about Wurstfest, but I have never actually been that interested in going before until now. It sounds like a lot of fun and definitely something I can enjoy now that I am more into that scene. It’s pretty cool that you got to see Willie Nelson perform at Gruene Hall, and for free. I’m glad you got to cross that off your bucketlist so unexpectedly. I doubt I’ll be as lucky as you if I do end up going someday but it is definitely something I’d like to do. Great post!

  8. Olivia English

    This was such a fun post to read, Drew! I’ve been to Wurstfest before, too, and your description of it is so accurate! It sounds like you and your friends really lucked out with that fire. I’ve always wanted to go to Gruene Hall, so that’s awesome that you’ve been, but so much more amazing that you just accidentally stopped by during a Willie Nelson performance! That sounds like such a great and monumental experience. That cop sounds like an awesome guy – I’d be pretty upset if he made me leave a concert like that before at least hearing a few songs.

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