Verboort Sausage Festival
My first trip to Verboort for sausage was back in the 1970s. I wrote this sometime in the 1990s. JD
About this time of year, when leaves choke the gutters, the days shorten to a few brief hours of gray, and the cold wet wind reminds me that winter really is coming, I think of Verboort. Not the tiny Dutch-Catholic farming community itself, but its annual sausage feed, which always takes place the first Saturday in November. I can’t think of any better way to brace against the impending gloom than an afternoon of gluttony, and there’s no better place for that than Verboort.
Imagine a low-ceiling basement lined with long tables, every one filled with a cross-section of the Northwest population. You’re seated between Goretex and Polartec-clad singles from Beaverton and a grizzled logger from Cornelius, decked out in a clean but worn zip-front hickory shirt, jeans ‘staubbed’ off short, and slip-on Romeos. Despite the cultural disparity, you’re all focused on the same thing: a steaming platter of smoky sausages, part of the endless stream of food that issues from the noisy cafeteria kitchen. [Dinners are served in a newer dining hall these days. JD]
Along with the sausage there are bowls of sauerkraut like you never tasted, fluffy mashed potatoes with gravy, soft dinner rolls right from the oven, green beans grown a stone’s throw from where you sit, and applesauce made from this year’s crop of Gravensteins. This is comfort food for the long night of winter, food for hibernating. Just when you thik you can’t eat another bite, you’ll have to choose between lemon and apple pie.
The festival is the annual fund-raiser for the parish school, and every bit of food has been grown, donated, put up, or, in the case of the sausage, ground right here in Verboort. It all started in 1934, when church members made about 200 pounds of sausage and 10 gallons of sauerkraut for about 150 hungry neighbors. This year as many as 10,000 people will participate in the all-you-can-eat dinner, and for one Saturday in November this little community is packed as tight as the Sunset Highway at rush hour. You can expect to wait a bit, but there’s plenty to do.
Here’s how it works. Buy a numbered ticket, and check the tote board to see how far out you are. The ticket sellers can tell you about how long you’ll be waiting. Then choose an activity to pass the time. There’s a bingo game if you’re feeling lucky, or you can just buy a raffle ticket to win the product of the local quilting bee. The bake sale is tempting, but if you buy something save it for the next day (it may actually be several days before you’re ready to eat again). There are also homemade candies, Christmas ornaments, and house plants for sale, and school-carnival type games for the kids. Or you can wander through the old church and check out the stained glass and icons.
When your number’s up, hit the dining room. You’ll be seated with strangers, but most are friendly and anyway, there’s not much small talk because everyone’s eating. Sample everything but focus on the sausage and kraut. Forget about calories—you can do penance later, and besides, this food is only available one night out of the whole year.
Drive out Highway 26 west toward Hillsboro. Take the North Plains exit, turn left (south), follow signs toward Forest Grove, and take a right on Zion Church Road (the first traffic light). When it ends, turn right again, and you’ll see the stand of big Sequoia trees that marks Verboort straight ahead. A farm boy will direct you to parking. For more information visit the Verboort homepage or call 503-357-3860.
If you can’t make the dinner, get up early and get some to go. Bulk sausage sales ($4/lb) begin at 9:00 am, but the line starts to form about 6:00 and the stuff’s usually gone by 11:00. Load up, it freezes well, and be sure to pick up a few quarts of kraut.