BRAT FEST
Brats on the grill at Brat Fest. MICHELLE STOCKER — The Capital Times

Fallout from the controversy surrounding Gov. Scott Walker's bid to strip collective bargaining rights from most public employees, as well as his proposed budget cuts, is sizzling around Madison's World's Largest Brat Fest.

Brat-lover Carrie Dainty, a longtime patron of the annual Memorial Day weekend charity fundraiser, isn't relishing the thought of munching the brats donated by Johnsonville Sausage, whose executives, family members and employees have donated $44,250 to Walker since 2005.

So she and brother-in-law Joey Dunscombe, a chef at the Weary Traveler Free House at 1201 Williamson St., are planning an alternative fest serving locally-produced brats and other food, while also donating all proceeds to charity.

The two are going before the Madison Park Commission Wednesday seeking permission to have a one-day Alt Brat Fest on May 29 in Orton Park, 1103 Spaight St.

Parks event staff are recommending approval of the event, which also has the support of Ald. Marcia Rummel, District 6.

In addition to the Weary Traveler, Alchemy Cafe, 1980 Atwood Ave., and the Underground Food Collective, 127 E. Mifflin St., also are helping to organize the event, Dainty said.

Money raised will benefit Community Shares of Wisconsin, which supports 63 nonprofit organizations. A donation would also be made to Friends of Orton Park if the Alt Brat Fest takes place there, Dainty said.

There is also a Virtual Alternative Brat Fest online -- where you get a "cyberbrat" instead of a real one - that has already raised more than $2,000 for the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin.

Dan Stein, president of the food bank, which also receives support from the World's Largest Brat Fest, said the organization appreciates donations from any source.

"We're really nonpartisan," said Stein, who called Tim "Brat Man" Metcalfe, co-owner of the grocery store chain that sponsors the World's Largest Brat Fest, "a wonderful friend of those struggling with hunger."

Metcalfe said he's saddened that the political fallout has reached the Brat Fest his father started in 1983 with a 22-inch grill, a table and three chairs in front of the Metcalfe's store at the Hilldale Shopping Center.

It now draws thousands of people to Willow Island each year and has sold millions of brats, raising a total of $957,439. Organizers hope to pass the $1 million mark with this year's fest, May 27-30, which will benefit 120 nonprofit organizations.

Metcalfe, who contributed to Walker in the Republican primary for governor but did not donate to either candidate in the general election, said he has historically given more money to Democratic candidates. He has posted a statement on Facebook telling patrons Brat Fest has a partnership agreement for Johnsonville to donate 150,000 brats.

"Without Johnsonville's donation," he said, "the event would not be able to do what it is doing for the community."

Johnsonville Sausage said in a statement, "We respect the passion consumers have for this issue and recognize the debate and dialogue we're seeing today is what makes our country great. We are hopeful both sides of this debate will work to resolve the issues that are facing our State."

Metcalfe said only about 10 of the 4,500 volunteers from benefiting organizations - which receive a contribution of $9 for every volunteer hour donated - have said they won't participate this year because of Johnsonville's links to Walker.

"I do have concerns over people's feelings toward the event," Metcalfe added. "It's always been a great community event. I think it's an event people have always embraced because of the great work it has done."

"I love Brat Fest," said Dainty, 34, of Monona, a project manager for a local market research firm who has attended every one - even when it took place twice a year. "We aren't trying to take away money from those charities."

But, she said, "I don't know if I can support it right now. I'm not 100 percent behind our governor."

Still, she said, she doesn't want the Alt Brat Fest to be a political event.

"This is very grass roots," said Dainty, who expects "a little event" of about 300 people, with music by DJs along with a reggae band and alt-country musician Josh Harty. No alcohol will be sold.

"We're definitely not the world's largest," she said. "We're probably the world's smallest."

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