Lutheran churches prepare for festival

Jill Schramm/MDN Mark Schnabel grinds potatoes for klub at Christ Lutheran Church Sept. 15.

The smell of Norsk Høstfest has been wafting from a few of Minot’s Lutheran churches this past week as their congregations prepare for one of their biggest fundraisers.

First Lutheran Church has provided a Scandinavian pudding called rømmegrøt at Norsk Høstfest since the festival’s start. Christ Lutheran has been making potato klub, a form of dumpling, just as long, and with the merger of Augustana Lutheran after the 2011 flood, it also incorporated Augustana’s rice pudding tradition. Bethany Lutheran is known for its lutefisk and meatballs dinner, Scandinavian cookies and sot suppe, or sweet soup.

Høstfest grew out of the celebration by Minot Lutheran churches of the 150th anniversary of Norwegian immigration in 1975, and food always has been a part of the festivity.

Dennis Helgeson was stirring a pot of thick rømmegrøt on the stove at First Lutheran Sept. 21, the second of five days of cooking by volunteers.

“It’s a good workout for the arm,” said Helgeson, who added the volunteer work is a lot of fun because of the companionship of fellow workers.

Jill Schramm/MDN Arnie Sundahl and Mary Ann Brey transfer a pot of  rømmegrøt through a sieve at First Lutheran Church Sept. 21.

Raymond and Mary Ann Brey of Las Vegas were visiting family in Minot this past week so decided to help in making rømmegrøt. Mary Ann Brey said her first taste of rømmegrøt was at Norsk Høstfest.

“We’ve only been there one time and we were only there a couple of hours,” she said. “So I sampled everything and this was one of them. But this is the first time I’ve ever been in the process of making it. It’s really interesting.”

Project coordinator Roxanne Maragos said it takes nearly 60 volunteers to produce the 200 gallons of rømmegrøt sold at Høstfest, and about 170 volunteers overall to tackle the project from making the pudding to selling it at the Høstfest booth. Maragos said a previous coordinator had the idea to sell rømmegrøt-to-go by the pint, and it has been a hit.

“Now it’s a big part of the sales. People like to buy it, take it home. It freezes very well,” Maragos said. “Just heat it up and put some melted butter, sugar and cinnamon on it.”

On Sept. 15 at Christ Lutheran, 10 pots of potato klub boiled on the stove, tended by Mike Rystedt. It was the first of three days of cooking. Like Helgeson, Rystedt said it is the camaraderie that makes the work fun.

Jill Schramm/MDN George Walker, left, and Curtis Moen move shelving for a Bethany Lutheran booth into position to be loaded into a truck and hauled to the State Fair Center, where Norsk Høstfest begins Sept. 28.

“It’s a very hot messy job but you do it because of your friends,” Rystedt said. “It takes a lot of volunteers to get this done.”

Volunteer Ed Zumbaum said he enjoys helping make the klub because he likes visiting with his fellow workers and he finds the klub delicious. Additionally, he knows he is supporting his church’s missions through his efforts.

“It’s a good fundraiser,” he said.

Brad Bohan, co-chair with Al Hanson on the project, said people often don’t realize the energy that goes into providing potato klub at Norsk Høstfest.

“It’s truly a project,” he said.

It started Sept. 14 in picking up 4,800 pounds of potatoes, fresh from the Kasowski Farms field near Karlsruhe. Over the next three days, volunteers at Christ Lutheran peeled, cut and ground potatoes and created the dumplings with the addition of cut-up ham. Working three- to four-hour shifts, volunteers froze 4,000 servings of the klub that will be heated and transported to Høstfest.

The rice pudding is made at the Høstfest, although there is preparation involved in arranging for the ingredients to be on hand.

“We also sell it to-go so people will stop in and buy pints of it as they are cooking,” said Bohan, who estimated 50 to-go bags are sold daily. The potato klub also is sold in six-serving sizes to-go as long as supplies are adequate.

Hanson said the church last year held a dinner, serving 1,000 klub, since there was no Høstfest due to the pandemic. 

A group at Bethany Lutheran has been gathering to bake cookies over the past two weeks, while others have been ensuring supplies are ordered and equipment moved out to the venue, where cooking of the sot suppe starts Monday. Organizers expect to make 15 gallons of the soup to serve their Høstfest guests.

Bethany will be serving the lutefisk and meatballs dinner that it has been providing for many years, ever since Trinity Health discontinued and passed along its equipment. The 800 pounds of lutefisk is shipped in from Minneapolis.

The church also provides fresh biscuits and gravy every day of the Høstfest in its booth with the soup and cookies. Between its two booths, Bethany requires 25 to 28 people for each three- or four-hour shift at the Høstfest.

Coordination of the entire project, led by Chairman Shanon Polsfut, began in June.

Minot’s Lutheran churches will see the culmination of their efforts next week. Norsk Høstfest begins Sept. 28 and runs through Oct. 1 in the North Dakota State Fair Center.


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