'Drink safely and have a plan' at Bad Duerkheim wine fest, US officials urge

Visitors to Bad Duerkheim?s Wurstmarkt festival sing along with a traditional German oompah band. U.S. military police are warning Americans to not drink and drive if attending what is considered the world?s largest wine festival.


By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 6, 2019

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Americans are being urged by U.S. military officials to drink responsibly and ‘have a plan’ if they attend what’s been billed as the world’s biggest wine festival.

The Bad Duerkheim Wurstmarkt was scheduled to begin Friday at 6 p.m. with the traditional barrel tapping below the Michaelis chapel in the town of Bad Duerkheim. It runs over the next two weekends.

Although it’s named after the German word for sausage, the centuries-old Wurstmarkt is known for the hundreds of varieties of still and sparkling wine that are available for tasting for the more than 600,000 festival-goers who are expected to attend.

With the spirits flowing, the German police have set up a special unit to crack down on intoxicated drivers, said 1st Lt. Stephen Cromp of the 569th U.S. Forces Police Squadron at Vogelweh. For the past 10 years, both the 569th and U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland Pfalz’s Department of Emergency Services have assisted German police at the festival.

In the last two years, German and U.S. police responded to 15 to 20 incidents involving U.S. military personnel on each night of the festival, Cromp said. These included assaults, driving under the influence of alcohol, fleeing the scene of an accident, disorderly conduct, drunkenness, lost ID cards and missing persons reports.

German police “have zero tolerance for misconduct during these types of festivals and promptly intervene, removing involved persons from the festival grounds” and potentially pressing charges, Cromp said in a statement.

“Drink safely and have a plan,” he added.

Festival-goers with U.S. Army Europe driver’s licenses should also note the fine print on the back, which states they agree to submit to a test for blood alcohol content, or for drugs in their system.

The legal blood alcohol content limit in Germany is .05, which is lower than in many U.S. states where it’s .08. For those involved in an accident in Germany, the limit is .03.

Bad Duerkheim is accessible by taking a regional train or S-Bahn commuter train to Neustadt, and changing there for a train to Bad Duerkheim.

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The Duerkheimer Wurstmarkt in Bad Duerkheim, Germany, can get a little crowded, so be ready for some bumping and grinding on weekend nights when the centuries-old wine festival is on. U.S. military officials are reminding Americans to be safe if attending the Wurstmarkt, where both U.S. and German law enforcement personnel will be present.

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