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Let there be lutefisk: Kelliher church bringing back annual dinner on Oct. 16

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Kelliher will hold what is believed to be the only lutefisk supper in the region on Sunday, Oct. 16. It’s the church’s first one since 2019. Aardahl Lutheran, First Lutheran and Calvary Lutheran won’t be holding theirs, but all three hope to bring them back in future years.

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In 2019, the lutefisk supper at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Kelliher brought in about 250 diners.
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KELLIHER — For two years lutefisk lovers have had to eat their beloved cod at home or at one of the few restaurants that serve it after the popular church dinners that draw hundreds of diners were shut down by the pandemic.

Not this year.

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Kelliher will hold what is believed to be the only lutefisk supper in the region on Sunday, Oct. 16. It’s the church’s first one since 2019. Aardahl Lutheran, First Lutheran and Calvary Lutheran won’t be holding theirs, but all three hope to bring them back in future years.

“The lutefisk has been ordered, the lefse is on a ‘roll’ and the work crews are being assembled,” organizers said in a release.

Serving will begin at 4:30 p.m. The church is located at 249 W. Main St., about 45 miles northeast of Bemidji. Tickets can be purchased at the door on a first-come, first-served basis. They’re $15 for adults, $5 for children 6-12 and free for anyone under age 5 or over age 90. The menu includes lutefisk, mashed potatoes, rutabaga, roast beef, lefse and pie.

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Co-chair Henry Huff said the event has been going for about 70 years, and organizers decided that a two-year layoff was enough.

“We mulled it over all summer long and we finally decided to do it,” Huff said. “We never dreamed that we’d be the only one, but it looks like that’s what’s going to happen. We’re afraid we’re going to be over run.”

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Co-chair Henry Huff works with the kitchen crew at a past lutefisk supper at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Kelliher.
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He said about 250 people were served in 2019, and while the same amount of lutefisk has been ordered this year, the kitchen crew plans to prepare an additional beef roast.

“We’re going to feed what we can,” Huff said. “We usually have some left over. We won’t have any left over this year, I’m afraid.”

Co-chair Richard Skoe agrees.

“We can only handle so many people,” Skoe said. "If all the Bemidji lutefisk eaters come up, we’re a little bit nervous about that. We can only handle so many people. It’s a benefit for the church, but it’s kind of become a community event more than anything else. Most of the (volunteers) are doing it because they like doing it, not because it’s making money for the church.”

Diane Mostad, a member of the lefse committee, said Our Savior’s expects to greet a bunch of happy lutefisk lovers on Oct. 16, especially since the other area dinners won’t be held.

“The funny thing is, those same people go to the other dinners, too,” Mostad said. “It is a circuit. Some people say they go to seven suppers. We have them coming from Grand Rapids, and somebody from the East Coast planned their vacation around our lutefisk supper. Oh my gosh.”

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Mostad and her fellow rollers have been preparing lefse in shifts.

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The lefse crew has been busy rolling and flipping in preparation for the Oct. 16 event at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Kelliher.
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“We split it up this year because we’re all getting a little older, you know,” Mostad said. “So we’re going to do another one on Oct. 13 just so we can get it all put together. And some people make their lefse at home.”

While people wait to be seated for dinner, they can enjoy music in the church sanctuary provided by the McKercher Duo, Sonja and the Kingsburys, and Mike Naylor.

While Mostad said the event is a fundraiser for Our Saviors it’s so much more than that.

“It’s a moderately big fundraiser, but I think equally important is the fact that it just brings this broad community together,” she said. “We probably could all get together and donate the money, but it’s not the same.”

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Karen Thayer serves pie at a past lutefisk supper in Kelliher.
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Related Topics: THINGS TO DOCHURCH NEWS
Dennis Doeden, former publisher of the Bemidji Pioneer, is a feature reporter. He is a graduate of Metropolitan State University with a degree in Communications Management.
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