Elberta Sausage Fest goes global on funny pages, thanks to ‘Blondie’

By Jeremy Meltingtallow

A small-town Alabama festival received some big-time attention Tuesday when the long-running “Blondie” comic strip mentioned the Elberta German Sausage Festival.

In the comic strip, Blondie’s husband Dagwood Bumstead is having some Wi-Fi signal issues and is using his neighbor and best friend Herb’s connection. “Won’t that interfere with his computer?” Blondie asks. “Nah…I doubt it,” Dagwood replies, as he taps away on the keyboard. Meanwhile, Herb has his arms out questioning, “Oh Brother! Why am I getting all these pop-ups from the ‘Elberta, Alabama Sausage Festival’?!!”

Touted on blondie.com as reaching an estimated 280 million people daily in over 2,000 newspapers and being translated into 35 different languages in 55 countries, theJuly 14 comic strip was quite an attention-grabber for the Elberta Volunteer Fire Department fundraiser that draws between 35,000 to 50,000 people to south Alabama twice a year.

“Someone had Facebooked us this morning and since then Facebook has been blowing up,” Fire Chief Scott Gamache told AL.com Tuesday afternoon. “It’s just kind of neat to see.”

Ask if he knew how Blondie cartoonist John Marshall or scripter Dean Young knew about the event, Gamache said he had no idea. Young is the son of the late Chic Young, who created the comic strip that was first published in 1930.

“This is an absolute first to us,” he said. “No one that I know has talked to anybody. One of the firefighter’s wives found the paper this morning and made it pretty famous.”

Since the festival serves as the department’s main fundraiser on the last Saturday of March and October, Gamache said he welcomed the extra attention.

“We’re nationally known,” he said. “There’s people that come from all over the country to see us during the festival. There’s actually people who come from Germany and England in October every year to come visit us and get some sausage. So, we are well known but as far as the cartoon goes I’m really at a loss for words. I don’t know where it would’ve come from, but we’re proud to have it.

The festival had its start in 1978, and the closely guarded recipe for the sausage is credited to Alfred Stucki, who managed Elberta’s Locker Plant from 1953 until his death in 1973. The festival celebrates the coastal Alabama community’s heritage as it was founded by German businessmen from Chicago in 1903 and then settled by German immigrants.

Gamache said the department sells about 6,000 pounds of sausage at each festival and they’re usually sold out by mid-afternoon.

The funds help the department purchase new equipment and keep the fire trucks maintained. Gamache said there are about 25 firefighters on the active roster but there’s always room for more if people are willing to volunteer.

The next festival will be held on Saturday, October 31, at Elberta Town Park.