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Annual sausage festival is just one example of town's community spirit
Founded in the late 1880s by immigrants mostly from Stuttgart, Germany, it’s no wonder this friendly town still honors the sausage with an annual affair drawing thousands of visitors from all over Nebraska.
On the second weekend in June, you can dance to polkas and country songs under the stars, smell authentic German-style sausages roasting on the barbecue, knock back a freshly-brewed beer, and savor German pretzels rolled and baked by Eustis bakers. But the Wurst Tag (Sausage Day) celebration in Eustis is really just a single example of the kind of community spirit that makes Eustis an appealing place to live.
Lakes in the desert
Eustis lies in South-Central Nebraska between the Platte River and a region of deep, rugged canyons with an instant and obvious appeal to photographers, sightseers, and anyone who wants a home with a view.
In the 1940s, leaders in the South Platte region lobbied the U.S. Congress to authorize a comprehensive irrigation and public power project called the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation. Water from the Platte was diverted to the canyons near Eustis, turning a region often called desert into lake country.
Plum Creek Lake, Gallagher Lake, Johnson Lake and Elwood Lake give the residents of Eustis easy access to water sports and provide a rich habitat for birds, fish and wildlife. The lakes, like pearls on a chain, are connected by canals. A float down the canal between Gallagher Lake and Plum Creek Lake on an inner tube, canoe or kayak offers a refreshing outdoor adventure where one might see white-tail deer, bobcat, badger, raccoons, possum, eagles, great horned owls, burrowing owls, wood ducks, egrets, great blue heron, red-tailed hawks and many others species of animals and birds.
Anglers catch tasty channel catfish and a variety of pan fish that thrive and grow to record sizes in the canals and lakes near Eustis. Fishing tournaments, planned and managed by local nonprofit groups, attract sport fishermen during the summer months.
Land of opportunity
Along with raising corn, soybeans, wheat and cattle, the community of Eustis is also raising entrepreneurs. Eustis attracts and assists businesses that add value to their agriculture.
An example is Judith Larsen, CEO and owner of the Village Piemaker, an enterprise that makes, packages, freezes and delivers 15 different varieties of ready-to-bake fruit pies to outlets across the United States. The Village Piemaker business has expanded three times since it was founded in 2002 and today employs about 35 people and has doubled their production to 12,000 pies a week — a volume that requires about three-and-a-half tons of fruit per day.
In 2011 they produced and shipped more than 200,000 pies and, Larsen adds, “Yes, we still make them mostly by hand.” The pies are distributed through Cash-Wa Distributing, Affiliated Foods, Associated Wholesale Grocers, and in the Fareway Stores. Duffy’s Beverages in Denver distributes the pies up and down Colorado’s Front Range.
A family tradition
Gregg Wolf and Doug and Deb Breinig started the Lone Wolf Wurst Meats Company in 2011 and in April, 2012 the company began production of summer sausage, polish sausage, brats, hard-tack meat sausage, and marinated prime rib. The Lone Wolf Wurst Meats Company employs eight and distributes their products nationwide; they’re exploring distribution in Australia, Canada and Mexico.
Many of the recipes for the sausages are over 100 years old.
“My grandfather, an immigrant from Germany, made these same recipes on the farm and hung the sausages in the attic to dry,” Gregg said. The recipes and the seasonings were perfected for production in a fully automated sausage making factory newly built in Eustis.
The Eustis grocery store changed ownership and was renovated and expanded. New coolers, freezers and shelving modernized the appearance of the business and additional products add variety. Village Piemaker pies and Lone Wolf Wurst Meats may be purchased at the Eustis grocery.
Business on an upswing
One of the newer businesses on Main Street is a shop called Cindy’s Place, which sells card stock, scrapbooking tools, paper, and stamps for making creative cards and scrapbook pages. The business also includes a framing shop and classes on design and hands-on projects.
Commercial property is available for sale and/or transfer, and economic development funds are available to assist the new owners to remodel the building to fit their needs. (For more on that, contact Sharon Larson at 308-486-5515 or via email at Eustisbodyshop@nebnet.net.)
The town is also making available three city building lots at no cost. The lots are intended to facilitate families moving to Eustis, so there are some restrictions, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to own a piece of the world in one of America’s great small towns. For more information, contact Bob Grabensteim at 308-486-5545 or Susan Strong at 308-486-5560 or by email at Eustis@nebnet.net.
Although it’s clear that sausages and a German heritage have left a mark on Eustis, the “wurst” town in Nebraska may offer a great opportunity for entrepreneurs.
Small classes, high standards
According to Eustis/Farnham School Superintendent Steve Sampy, the school’s graduation rate is near perfect, and nearly all students go on to some kind of secondary education.
“Our students are exceptionally hard working, and they can compete with any school, any size in the U.S.A.,” Sampy said. “They excel in the classroom, and on national and state tests.”
The Eustis/Farnham system provides a wide variety of extra curricular activities, and nearly every student participates in one or more after-school activities. The school’s Vocational Agricultural program is especially well known, having won state and national competitions.
Class size averages approximately 16 students per class, allowing for a lot of individual instruction and a chance for teachers to meet the needs of every student.
“The School Board, parents, citizens in the Eustis/Farnham region, and the teachers work together so that every young person gets the best possible education,” Sampy said.
Volunteering as a way of life
“Volunteers keep this community going, whether they live in town or in the country,” said Gary Buehner, president of the First Bank & Trust in Eustis. “Eustis citizens care about the community, and we volunteer to help with community projects.”
“People in Eustis work as hard as a volunteer as they work for pay,” says Mari Banzaf, Wurst Tag coordinator.
“The Wurst Tag committee starts after the first of the year to plan events for the next summer,” says Banzhaf. “We hire bands for the street dance, plan the annual Wurst Tag marathon, and organize a community breakfast along with the traditional events for Wurst Tag.” At five year intervals, the committee organizes a parade with over 100 entries, and annually the Lion’s Club cooks a dinner for 800 people followed by a dessert table laden with traditional German pastries.
Nearly everyone volunteers during Wurst Tag. “The more people are involved in community service, the more deeply they feel about the town,” says Banzhaf. “On Wurst Tag, we all feel a part of the day and part of the community.”
If you’re looking for a tight-knit community in an appealing natural setting, you’d have to look hard to find a better one than Eustis.
Who to Contact
Eustis City Government
106 N Morton St, Eustis, NE
Eustis-Farnam Public School
504 N Ingall St, Eustis, NE
Superintendent Steve Sampy