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Kraut Fest will return to the Caledonia and Mount Pleasant Memorial Park this summer after the Joint Park Commission approved the proposal at its meeting on Thursday.

Organizers want the festival to be more music-focused like Summerfest, and plan to have more than 30 bands at the four-day event, which will be held June 18 through June 21. The festival started 52 years ago and ended 12 years ago because of lack of funding, said Jim Svoboda, parks and recreation liaison.

“It takes a lot of money and time to put on festivals, and you have to have participation too,” Svoboda said. “So we formed the Kraut Festival Committee to look at how do we bring it back?”

Ray Stibeck, owner of Route 20 Outhouse, told the commission that the festival won’t  just be about sauerkraut, but will emphasize a variety of types of music — from reggae to country to rock music.

“We want to merge one concept with another so that a larger population wants to be involved and we think this area would be receptive to it,” Stibeck said.

Kraut Fest is expected to generate more revenue for the park and help bring larger events to the park grounds. The event will feature two music stages, a carnival midway, food tents that will feature sauerkraut, antique tractor show, local vendors, fireworks, a kraut queen contest, and kraut eating contest.

The Kraut Fest Committee won’t be using taxpayer money to fund the festival, but they expect that vendor fees and revenue from the event will offset the cost of putting on the event.

One issue that the committee needs to overcome relates to being able to serve hard liquor. They group plans to have a stage sponsored by Jaegermeister, which makes hard liquor. In exchange for setting up the stage, Jaegermeister is asking that it be able to serve samples of its products. Stibeck explained that the committee could get a license to sell beer and wine, but not hard liquor. However, there’s a bill that is being introduced in the state legislature that could allow them to sell samples if it’s passed.

“That’s the hang up right now,” Stibeck said. “We need to figure out how to work that. The hard liquor license though really is unnecessary if there’s a legal way we can sell it. Right now we don’t have the answers to that because it just happened.”

Still, Stibeck said not being able to sell hard liquor isn’t a show stopper and it wouldn’t prevent them from moving forward with the event.

“But it’s not the villages problem, it’s just the state law,” he said. “To lose that kind of sponsorship dollars, that’s hard to loose. But hopefully we can come to some resolution to it.”

Stibeck said the committee plans to announce the music acts by the end of the month.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.

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