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Let’s Cook: Lutheran “Fair”ly Successful

By Staff | Jul 31, 2015

Back left: Crew coordinator Erin Lauf, Clint Hanson working on the fryer , and man of the grill Doug Mattson.

Last Saturday had me thinking of Martin Luther and how he nailed 95 theses to the doors of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenburg, Germany. I am sure he never figured the Reformation would lead to many members of First Lutheran Church in Minot flipping hundreds of hamburger patties, as well as serving a vast amount of tasty homemade pie and potato salad. We no longer need to put the hammer down, so instead we raise our pie servers and spatulas at the First Lutheran Food booth at the North Dakota State Fair as a fundraiser for our church.

Recently we became members of First Lutheran, and we were called to work the food booth. Shouts of joy rang out from Lydia as she exclaimed, “We get to work at our favorite place to eat at the fair!”

While growing up, a stop at the First Lutheran Food Stand was a must when both our families attended the fair. At that time, the stand was much larger than it is today, and it sported a counter and stools that kids loved to spin on, an awning and food that was worth waiting for each summer. Brown fried chicken, hot roast beef sandwiches, homemade soups and delicious fresh pies-what was there not to love? An added luxury was that meals were served on the tan china dishes from the church.

The First Lutheran Fair stand started in 1923. This was the second Ward County Fair, and it was held July 3 to July 7. Alice Dahl was president of the First Lutheran Ladies Aid, and she and other women ran the booth located under the grandstand. They were not blessed with a deluxe kitchen, but managed very well with a three-burner, blue flame kerosene stove, which was brought from her home. The menu was hamburgers, hot dogs, cookies, baked beans and coffee. It has been noted that Mrs. Haugland had baked all the beans.

In time, a large booth was built which featured electric fans, lights, comfortable seating, gas stoves, sinks with running water, ice makers and a complete choir of stainless steel kettles that sang so well throughout the fair. Knowing the rules of pressing on, the women of First Lutheran operated the stand as the fair continued through the depression and war years. It became one of the most well-liked eating places for fair goers.

In 1976 the fairgrounds were paved and First Lutheran was blessed to purchase a different stand, as the original structure was showing much wear and tear. Also coming with this stand was equipment owned by another church which brought into the galley stainless steel cabinets, steam tables and much needed refrigeration space. In 1978 the stand was enlarged and remodeled-now offering some covered seating.

In the heyday of the stand, approximately 100 workers were needed per day! (Think of that, and they were able to find members to volunteers their time!) In 1978 a breakfast shift was added and was proved to be popular. There were three regular shifts with five to 10 gallons of soup being eaten daily; 12 waiters, a cashier, dining room chairperson, dishwashers, sandwich makers, shoestring fryer, and two people manning the grill. Wow! This does not include all the folks who were working behind the scenes at the church making the pies, potato salad and so forth. Let us not forget there was a mountain of dish towels which had to be washed each and every day as well.

In time, the permanent booth was removed and has given way to the compact booth that we know today. It still remains as a very busy stop at the North Dakota State Fair. Our introduction to working here was wonderful. In addition to our family, we had our nephew, Tanner Thompson, helping and he agreed with Lydia-this was great fun!

When we open ourselves to volunteering, we have the chance to experience something new; we also get to meet several others who also believe in the worth of this endeavor. Our crew was Saturday afternoon, which was coordinated by Erin Lauf. Upon arriving, we were given our tasks: Jan was cashier, Lydia and Tanner waited tables, however they ended up inside writing orders and posting them; Penny Miller-order coordinator; Doug Mattson, man of the grill; Clint Hanson in charge of the fryer; Jylann Hanson, pie server: and myself as grill assistant.

Business was quiet at first, but then we were slammed! What fun to watch as each of us slipped into sync with our duty. Orders being called out from the front window, slips placed in order by the grill; hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, onion rings and even fried onions getting to the delivery runway with ease. A selection of pies – apple, peach, rhubarb, sour cream raisin, strawberry, and lemon meringue – swirled out the north pickup window. Another capable team of volunteers took care of waiting on the outdoor tables, and as I glanced out the window smiles were appearing as their lips met the delights from the First Lutheran Fair stand.

It has been this way for years, and the stand has changed. However, the bottom line is that fairgoers enjoy the First Lutheran Food stand. Many faithful repeat customers expressed at the window, “I always like stopping here, thank you for doing a good job!” There is a tons of thanks to be given to the many workers who have gone before us that have now allowed us to pass on this tradition. I have a feeling Lydia and Tanner will want to work two shifts come next July!

Just in case they decide to bring back pancakes, here is a good recipe. Once when I was delivering newspapers to the home of Walter and Mary Smith of Underwood, they invited me in for pancakes and I must say they were delicious. Mary served them with chokecherry syrup, and I had to ask for the recipe. They are really thin pancakes, almost like crepes.

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