FREEMAN — Stewed beef. Sauerkraut. Kuchen.

It sounds a lot like Schmeckfest. But, if you’re eager to enjoy some of those traditional German foods, here’s some good news: there’s no need to wait until spring of 2020 to satisfy your appetite. All of these foods — and many more – are on the menu for one day this summer when the annual South Dakota MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) Relief Sale sets up shop in Freeman’s Pioneer Hall on Saturday, July 13.

The events of the day get underway at 8 a.m. with a pancake breakfast and bike/ride race. Presentations by local storyteller Norman Hofer are slated for 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. in the adjacent Sterling Hall. Guests will also be able to take advantage of rides offered through Freeman’s Prairie Arboretum. The showcase event of the day is the live auction, featuring hand-crafted quilts, woodwork, and other unique items. But, at 11 a.m., just before the live auction springs into action, the food court will open for business in the lower level of Pioneer Hall.

The Food Court

Overseeing the process of feeding a frenzy of hungry guests in the food court is Joyce Hofer. The former Joyce Wollmann Wipf is no stranger to the community food scene. Accustomed to planning and organizing for a smooth-flowing crowd, Hofer got her first taste of what’s involved in that process when she was a teenager. That’s when her mother, Jessie Wollmann, was among the ladies responsible for heading up the first-ever Schmeckfest. Hofer remembers helping to prepare the food, seeing the scores of people waiting in line, and running to the local grocery store to purchase more hamburger to be fried and served.

Years have passed and Hofer has since taken her own turns at heading up the Schmeckfest kitchen. Making sure the ingredients purchased match the requirement for preparing the appropriate amount of food to feed 1,000 guests each night is key. Feeding the guests at the South Dakota MCC Sale is a bit different.

For the MCC event in July, each menu item is prepared by a specific group of volunteers. And, it’s that particular group that determines the amount of food to prepare. That’s the way it’s been done for years and it certainly takes some pressure off of Hofer.

Efficient Serving

“This year,” Hofer states, “trying to make the food court less congested is our main goal.”

Hofer is quick to credit Paul and Charity Ortman in the planning process. Together, the three of them have set up tables, plotted out the set-up plan for each of the serving stations, and focused on ways that processes might be tweaked in order to ease congestion.

Guests are encouraged to visit the various stations in any order they wish. Hosts will be available to assist and guests should not feel they need to remain in one line. “You’re not cutting if you move out of a line to go to a different station,” Hofer added.

Donations Only

A big change for making the serving process more efficient this year is the fact that the food court is simply accepting donations only for the food that’s served; no tickets will need to be purchased and no prices will need to be tallied.

“Of course,” noted Hofer, “we’re hoping people will be generous since all of the funds raised go to help people in need around the world. We already serve the morning breakfast on a donation basis and that’s worked well.”

Opportunities for making donations for menu items will be available at the entrance and exit of the food court. Guests may pay with cash or with a bidding number, but should know that change will not be provided at either of the stations.

Cheese pockets are also on the menu. And, if German food’s not your thing, don’t worry. There will be sloppy joes, tacos, hot dogs, salads, pies, soft serve ice cream, and more on the menu. You won’t go away hungry. But, you will want to make sure to make your way back upstairs to get in on the start of 12:30 p.m. auction.

The South Dakota MCC Relief Sale is a fundraising event for Mennonite Central Committee, a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches. MCC’s goal is to share God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ. Money raised is used to meet humanitarian needs throughout the world.

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