Some call it Holy Tuesday
It's an annual event and some call it Holy Tuesday.
This special event is the annual Lutefisk Dinner served at First Lutheran Church of Blooming Prairie. Another lutefisk dinner was successful at the church because of many dedicated volunteer workers, says dinner chairwoman Ruth Earl.
With cooperative weather helping motivate them on Tuesday, Oct. 15, some hungry lutefisk lovers paid the price to enjoy what many termed "the best fish ever."
"Many lutefisk lovers come back each year because they like the personal touch," Earl said. She explained that people like to sit down and be served. They also like real plates, real cup and regular silverware, she added.
Regular customers also like the way the tables look, Ruth said. The tables feature a white table covering and also have American and Norwegian flags on each table.
These comments may sound like a broken record but it seems that the fish gets better with age, or the consumers age and believe the fish has gotten better.
Earl, chair of this huge community event, said 1,283 were served at the 77th annual lutefisk and meatball dinner. This total was slightly down from the 1,321 served last year.
More than 200 volunteers had their special jobs to make this giant church fundraiser a resounding success. Preparation for next year has already begun with a Lutheran Church Women committee meeting in a few weeks to evaluate 2019’s dinner.
"This dinner brings us closer together as a church and as a community," says Earl.
There's a woman from Lyle who called Earl last June, asking Earl to put her on the work detail. She was there on Holy Tuesday.
People always tease about eating lutefisk, a tasty morsel to many and an offensive morsel to others.
There's an option for those who don't want to consume the lutefisk. They can eat some delicious meatballs, consume some lefse, enjoy some cranberry salad and smack their lips to some Norwegian pastry items like rosettes and krumkake.
Here's a scorecard of how much of each menu item were ordered: 1,250 pounds of lutefisk; 224 pounds of a mixture of ground beef (168 pounds) and pork (56 pounds) to make 8,000 meatballs; 800 pounds of potatoes; 84 pounds of cranberries for the cranberry salad, 48 gallons of corn; 1120 rounds of lefse (4,480 pieces); 216 pounds of butter; 1,900 rosettes and 1,400 krumkake.
Most of the lutefisk lovers are at an advanced age (you know who you are) but there are some younger consumers, too. Harper Hansen, 7, of Blooming Prairie, ate her lutefisk first and then followed with a helping of lefse.
Lutefisk lovers began to show up at First Lutheran Church about two hours before the first serving began at 11 a.m.
The first serving always seems to be the most popular. Earl said that 755 ate during the first serving. This breaks down as follows: 599 visitors, 103 workers, 4 complimentary and 48 takeouts.
Three more servings came at 5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The evening total was 528, broken down like this: 432 visitors, 11 complimentary, 28 carryouts and 57 workers.
Earl said she is constantly amazed at how smoothly the whole production runs. "Sure, we have a few crisis situations but most of all, people know what their jobs are and they love doing them," Earl explained.
Lots of planning goes into the lutefisk and meatball dinner being a success year after year, Earl said. She praised the younger people of confirmation age and younger who helped move furniture, clear tables and do any job asked of them.
This year marked the fifth year Earl has chaired the event. "There were many return servers this year and it's when you start from scratch with volunteers that the job of organizing becomes tougher, she said.
Earl said that when new workers come on board, others are there to mentor them about their duties.
Meat ball people were new last year under the leadership of Carrie Farr and Nicki Bishop. Two new people helped serve the corn this year.
Many of the loyal workers have helped with the dinner for years. The husband and wife team of Harold and Vivian Ulrich are always there to do multiple jobs.
Harold helps with the peeling of potatoes and again donated the use of his reliable tent, used in the potato peeling area.
Vivian was busy zooming around the dining area on her motorized scooter the day before the dinner. She had the scooter loaded with plates and silverware. She helped set the first sitting.
"Everybody has to give themselves a pat on the back for a job well done," said Earl, pointing to the volunteers who worked the food part of the operation on Tuesday and to the other people who helped seat customers. She also saluted volunteers who worked in the Used a Bit Shop and in the Craft Room.
Earl said she walks the halls of the church during the dinner to see how smoothly it was being run.
She said she always checks on the lutefisk being prepared in the kitchen. It's an art, she believes.
She said Jennifer Milton, Becky Braaten and Doug Hillson are three of the mainstays finishing off the lutefisk. Jim Johnson is one of the regulars preparing the fish the day before the dinner.
The lutefisk comes from Olsen's Fish Market of Minneapolis. The lefse comes from the Norsemen of Rushford.
Profits from the major event are disbursed at a later time by the women of the church. Monies go to local organizations first and then to regional and world-wide purposes.
Earl thanked all of the volunteers who helped with the dinner and those who sold items in the craft room, in the used a bit shoppe and at the bake/candy sale.