Memorial Day weekend is a big deal in Madison. They have “The World’s Largest Brat Fest” on the grounds near the Alliant Energy Center. It’s huge. Last year, they sold more than 208,000 bratwurst. I think they’ll probably break that record over the four-day run this year. Summer has come with a vengeance and this is a big summer picnic. There’s no cover charge. There are bands. There are fireworks. The brats are only $1.50 apiece, which isn’t bad. There’s other stuff you can get, too. There are complimentary rides on a fleet of golf carts to take you back to the parking area, if you don’t want to make the march. The money raised goes to a long list of worthy causes in the community.
Of course, they also sell beer because hardly anything goes better than a beer with a brat. But unlike around these parts, there are no beer corrals teeming with people pounding glass after glass in an environment set aside for that activity. Instead, they wristband people who show their IDs at a check station on the way in (and you don’t have to get one if you don’t want a beer — I didn’t.) Then people who want to get a beer can get it at one of the small vending stations and they continue on their way, enjoying the festival just like anyone else.
Imagine that. Tens of thousands of people and more brats sold than the total attendance number for the Wisconsin Valley Fair. And no beer fences. And it doesn’t matter.