Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Wheeling Township, Part I: The season of Minnesota church dinners September 26, 2017

Long-time Germanfest kitchen staff, Lynn, left, and Elsie.


AUTUMN MARKS THE SEASON of church dinners and festivals in Minnesota. In fellowship halls and church basements, you will find some of the best homecooked food. Food of the land. Potatoes peeled and mashed. Squash scooped of seeds and baked. Bone-in-ham savory and heavenly.








An abundance of food fills plates, satisfying the belly and the soul. Menus vary from congregation to congregation with ethnicity, location and tradition determining food offerings. At St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, parishioners serve an authentic German meal at the annual late September Germanfest. Several years had passed since I attended this dinner, one of my favorites among Faribault area churches.


Diners park their vehicles around the cemetery next to the church.





Baby Lucy and her grandpa listen to the Ray Sands Combo.


Here in this rural setting, with old-time bands pumping out polkas and waltzes just outside the dining hall, hundreds gather for food and fellowship.








And bingo,








a quilt show,







petting zoo,








market, polka service and more.




Randy and I whiled away the last September Sunday afternoon here, crammed first into the fellowship hall eating sauerbraten and brats, German potato salad (and yes, mashed potatoes and gravy for those who prefer that potato choice) and an assortment of German sides with Black Forest cake, apple kuchen and bread pudding for dessert—as if we needed three desserts. But it’s impossible to pass on such sugary goodness.





This event, as are all church dinners and festivals, is about more than food. It’s about family and friends and good conversation and laughter and delighting in the bounty of the earth. It’s about hard work—laboring in the kitchen, selling tickets, grilling brats, tending quilts and animals, and an entire long list of volunteer duties. It’s about a sense of community, a coming together, a communion of sorts with the land, with this place, with these people. In the season of autumn.


TELL ME: Do you attend church dinners and festivals? If so, feel free to recommend one here.


Check back for several more posts from St. John’s Germanfest including some endearing photos of a budding musician and of a family photo shoot.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “From Wheeling Township, Part I: The season of Minnesota church dinners”


    This is one of my favorite church festivals too. They do a very nice job with everything especially the food and the music. It is a great place to meet and hang out with friends too!

  2. dalmatianangel Says:

    I wish we would have known about this one!

  3. What FUN and the eats look delicious and those quilts are AMAZING labors of love/art 🙂 Made my day today – thanks! Happy Day – Enjoy

    • This congregation invests a lot of time and energy into putting on a spectacular Germanfest. They also host many other events to draw folks to their church. They are the kindest, friendliest people who always make me feel welcome.

  4. Almost Iowa Says:


    Please publish these posts BEFORE the dinner. 🙂

    I almost died a thousand deaths drooling over food I would never get to eat. It is cruel, cruel, I say.

    🙂 🙂

  5. Jackie Says:

    I dont….but I want to, just never make time to do it. Living in a big(er) city pulls us away from the smaller country church dinners. I know they are all around the area, I just need to open my eyes and get to one of these. The food always looks so good. I love, love, love the photo of the quilts hanging over the pews!

  6. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Wow this really looks like a fun event and those quilts… wow!

  7. Marcia Hron Says:

    What a wonderful article giving a BIG SALUTE to the fine people who work to bring about these annual church festivals and to those of us who love to attend. LOVE seeing the skills passed on to the younger children!!!!

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