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Cedar Co. Fair food favorite was forced to take a one-year break

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HARTINGTON — A long-standing tradition was forced to take a one-year hiatus this year.

The coronavirus pandemic forced many changes at this year’s Cedar County Fair, including the shutdown of the Trinity Lutheran Lunch Stand.

The Lutheran lunch stand has been a staple of the event for nearly a century.

Church pastor Amanda Talley has helped organize the event ever since she first arrived in Hartington. It takes dozens of volunteers to help make the facility a success.

Brenda Steiner has been a food stand co-chairwoman for a few years now and she recognizes the impact of the loss of a fundraiser and its roll as a unifier for those within the church.

“Those funds are typically used in a major way for physical improvements,” Steiner said.

It’s much more than just a financial hit, though, she said.

“It’s not only the financial loss, it’s always been a wonderful way for our church members and their families and friends to get together and work together and get to know each other.”

Steiner said the fair board invested the time planning for this event since the winter and when March rolled in, so did the doubts.

“Then in April it was like ‘this isn’t looking good,’” she said. “Then we started to understand all of the rules of regulations to have been able to open and that would have been so difficult. We just couldn’t do it and expose our older or younger people. It was almost impossible.”

The pandemic also took many of the seniors who used the weekend to get out of the house and socialize or even lend a helping hand.

“Yes, I missed the people and seeing everybody,” Steiner said. “There have been people who have been working years to help. John Grinvold, was going to be there working. He was working last year when he was 99 years old and I guarantee he was going to be there this year at 100.”

With its friendly faces, homemade food and airconditioned comfort, the facility is by far the most popular eating venue at the Fair each year.

Many of the volunteers that have helped feed the fair crowd over the years have seen quite a transformation in the facility.

“We have plenty of folks who worked at the stand when it was just an open-air building, and some who butchered fresh chickens to cook and serve,” Talley said.

Talley is uncertain when the facility first opened, but she knows it has had quite a tradition for decades.

“When we made this decision, I looked back through some old records and I couldn’t find an exact date when we started, but we’ve certainly been at this for decades.”

The event has been a big fundraiser for the church as well as a symbol of the church, which was left with little options.

The hot beef sandwiches, chicken strips, hamburgers, brats, hot dogs, taverns, chili, fries, nachos, and various combinations of guilty pleasure foods were definitely missed this year.

“We love serving our friends and neighbors, and working together as a congregation, and we will definitely miss it this year,” Talley said.

“Our congregation council made a unanimous decision in mid-May that the lunch stand wouldn’t be a good idea this year. We weren’t yet sure what form the fair would take, but we looked into the extra health regulations we would have to follow, and they would have been difficult. We were concerned about cost and availability of food since that was a little uncertain at the time. We figured there was potential for smaller crowds and higher costs, which would have significantly cut our proceeds, besides the main problem of gathering crowds during a global pandemic.

“We knew it was in the best interest of our organizers, workers, and community that we keep our lunch stand closed this year, as much as we hated to do that.”

It was to be the only big fundraiser and no backup plans are in place to make up the numbers.

“Our women’s group holds a Harvest Fair in the fall, but those proceeds are all sent out for mission work beyond the congregation,” Talley said. “The lunch stand is the one, big, annual fundraiser that brings in extra money for operating expenses. Most often, fair stand proceeds fund big projects at church, like building repairs and updates.

“We don’t currently have alternative plans for a fundraiser this year. We’ve had some lovely folks ask about that, so if we do make any plans, I’m sure we’ll get great community support. We’re thankful for our congregation members, our Cedar County neighbors, the visitors to the fair, the Ag Society, and all the others who make our annual efforts possible.”

The stand sells over 1,300 pieces of pie in four days at the fair and dozens of volunteers take up the making of pies such apple, peach, pumpkin, and pecan, plus other fruits like rhubarb, gooseberry, cream pies like banana cream, sour cream raisin, and lemon meringue.

“We have had creative options like Oreo, Butterfinger, cheesecake, pink lemonade, and tons of others,” Talley said. “It just depends on what people make and when they GREEN bring it, BEANS so you have to keep coming back for BRUSSEL new flavors.”SPROUTS Fans of the pies will have to wait until 2021 to

Fans of the pies will have to wait until 2021 to come back for more.