Large crowds attracted to first sausage festival

·3 min read

The sun was blazing at the city’s first Sausage Festival in Lethbridge as visitors played games, ate sausages and helped bring awareness and raise money for mental health initiatives.

Event organizer Mark Vella, and owner of Khem, a men’s health and wellness services company in Lethbridge, said he hopes to see people become more open and comfortable speaking about their mental health struggles, rather than suffer alone.

“There are just so many people who fall through the cracks, and Khem, our company, we have to think outside the box,” Vella said. “We have to approach mental health and wellbeing differently.”

Vella said proceeds from the event will go to several charitable organizations around Lethbridge, as well as a fund for Khem to aid people who pay out of pocket for mental-health services.

“We’re supporting Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Veteran’s Foodbank and also People First Canada,” said Vella.

The venue was hosted by the Canadian Martial Arts Centre, which also supported and sponsored the festival in a number of ways.

Lee Mein, owner of the Canadian Martial Arts Centre, said his facility focuses on physical and mental health every day, so when he was asked to join this event, it was an easy decision.

“What can we do to give back to the community, in small ways, big ways? Anything we can do to help build awareness for men,” said Mein.

He said it’s important for people to have a place to go when they require it, so supporting the event is equally necessary.

“We all have problems, we have to work through them. Where there’s support, there’s help.”

Main said the event also focused on bringing a fun, family friendly culture to Lethbridge, so he brought some martial arts into the mix and had some of his young students provide demonstrations. There were also sumo matches.

Other family friendly events included virtual reality, hotdog eating contests and a show and shine tailgate party.

Lance Booth, owner of Ctrl-V virtual reality, set up a station for children to play and said the event was also a great opportunity for local businesses to team up.

“It’s really important to connect with and collaborate with local businesses,” Booth said. “It’s so easy to see a lot of the money in our community go off to other countries or even the other side of the country.”

Booth added mental health support can never sleep.

“Supporting people throughout their lives is super important.”

One of the highlights of the event for many visitors was the show and shine, which displayed dozens of unique vehicles for people to gaze upon. One of the vehicles, The Hulk owned by Daryl Herbers, is a Lethbridge staple, and made its debut for the summer at the Sausage Fest.

Hebert said it was a prime opportunity to bring the green machine out of storage and back into the public eye.

“I figured, come out and support the guys and have a little bit of fun today,” said Herbers.

While he said he was happy to bring his truck out again, he added it was also nice to be able to support the idea behind the event.

“You’ve always got [someone with mental health struggles] in your family. So, I figured I’d come out and support it and help them maybe make a dollar or two today,” said Herbers.

Even with all the focus on mental health and family fun, the name of the event was surely an eye-catcher.

Vella said it was a fun idea created by members of the Canadian Martial Arts Centre while they planned the event.

“We were training here at the gym and we thought it would be a really good way to kick off summer. A jiu-jitsu class kind of floated around the name Sausage Fest.”

About 750 visitors were expected to attend the event, leaving Vella hopeful that it will become an annual event.

Justin Sibbet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald