As I walk up Wyoming Street, the sound of music, laughter, and conversation drifts through the air. The Great Midwest Blizzard of 2011 has left a chill in the air, but the smell of sausage wafting down the street promises warmth. I turn up the driveway to the Knitter residence for Winter SausageFest and can see firelight flickering off parked cars and unfamiliar faces.
SausageFest is the brainchild of Rudolph Bledsoe and Chris Knitter. What started out as a simple house party, has turned into a Kansas City phenomenon, as their friends have invited more and more people to come to the event. I can smell wood burning in the fire pits as I step onto the deck. Someone planned ahead to fight back the cold. I can see Rudy next to the grill, working on the sausages. I say my hellos to a handful of old friends as I make my way to the sausage stand. I put two packs of Mendolia’s Sausages–my tribute to SausageFest for the evening–down in front of Rudy and shake his hand. We talk for a bit about my family before I let him get back to work and head inside to see the rest of the gathered throng.
Once inside, it’s clear that this SausageFest is different from those I’ve been to before. Many people I don’t recognize stand around the kitchen and a small table in the dining room with various goodies to eat. Various pop and rock songs play over the house speakers, while several huddle before a MacBook Pro to decide what to play next. I scan the contents of the food table, but there is no sausage ready to eat. Soon, though, Knitter appears. I say hi and he is quickly pulled away by another guest, as he plays the part of host. He returns shortly with a large pan of cheesy potatoes. My stomach has been rumbling, so I know that I will have to eat some right away.
With a plate of potatoes in one hand, and an ice cold beer in the other, I make my way back outside to check on the sausage. SausageFest is as much about seeing friends as it is about the sausage, but this isn’t just any old barbecue. Rudy has a method, one that he follows religiously to create a remarkable blend of sweet and spicy barbecue-y goodness in your mouth. While many people may come to SausageFest to visit and have a good time, if the swarm of mouths that descend upon the food table once the sausage is finished is any indication, they stay for the sausage.
Winter SausageFest is the kickoff for the 2011 SausageFest season, the second season of the event to date. Last year, SausageFest began in the early summer and ran until it started to get too cold to comfortably stand outside. Several events even had croquet matches going on in the “garden” next to the deck. If the success of the most recent ‘Fest is any indication, it won’t matter how cold it is in the future. If you cook it, they will come.
If you’re interested in learning more about SausageFest or want to check out the calendar for upcoming events, be sure to visit The Kansas City SausageFest Society homepage. While there, check out the gallery for images from Winter SausageFest, 2011. And be sure to come out next time. Bring your friends, some Mendolia’s for the grill… and an empty belly.