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Masses come out for Cookie Walk

Volunteer "cookie filler" Loree Albright starts stacking cookies in a bakery box Saturday as junior assistant Paige Leeseberg, 11, double checks the accuracy of the order. Three generations of volunteers turned out to help United Methodist's 10th annual fundraiser. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 3
Pastor Duane Gebhard demonstrated his chops on the harmonica when he participated in the holiday entertainment. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 3
Bonnie Pierce took charge of tabulating and checking the orders. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)3 / 3

Six thousand holiday cookies disappeared seemingly in a blink Saturday morning as Akeley United Methodist's 10th annual Cookie Walk turned into a sprint.

Or maybe a spritz. (Those went like lightning, too.)

The annual church fundraiser featured tray upon tray of cookies, tables laden with breads, rolls, Scandinavian treats and bars.

Gone, gone, gone.

One need only look to the streets of Akeley to see why. Late arrivals had to park a country mile away to get there. Crowds began lining up well before the 10 a.m. start.

Parishoner Rayleene Emmeck was on "crowd control" duty and she took her role seriously, only letting ten at a time into the church's kitchen and dining room.

"Otherwise they're all bunched up at the door," Emmeck said.

Instead of chaos, the event went off with military precision.

For the uninitiated, the group of ten is each handed a clipboard to write on. A sheet indicates that Tray No. 1 holds snicker doodles, Tray No. 3 had mint chocolate cookies, etc.

Buyers wander down a long aisle of cookies and place their orders. They turn them in at the end of the 30-foot-long display.

That's when the "cookie fillers" spring into action.

It's done this way to no doubt curb drooling on the goodies and "so we don't have kids digging into the cookies," Emmeck said.

Twenty to 30 fillers then combed through the tables packing white bakery boxes full of calorie-laden treats.

"We have three generations of cookie fillers here," said Bonnie Pierce, grinning in her holiday apron. Pierce doled out the orders and kept track of the clipboards piling up.

"It's gonna be awhile to have some coffee and cookies," she tells the second group of ten. Once the room crowds, it takes longer to fill the orders.

Once the orders were filled announcer and summer resident Allen Walter, who returned from Buffalo Lake to participate, announces in his melodic radio voice, "Number 19, your order is ready."

Or occasionally, "Thelma, could you please come up here? We have a question on your order."

While waiting for orders to be filled, guests sit at empty tables and munch of cookie samples and drink coffee.

Cookies sell at $3.75 a dozen, said Deloris Lamb. Breads and other table goodies are priced separately.

Lamb said all the baking takes place two days before the event in the church kitchen.

"Look at this beautiful kitchen," she enthused. "We have a convection oven.

"It's one of the biggest fundraisers for the church," Lamb said. "It's grown every year."

As guests file through the church sanctuary, music by Frank Lamb on the keyboards and Fran Gack on the guitar entertain the waiting.

Pastor Duane Gebhard even got into the act, playing his harmonica.

"This is unbelievable," remarked Sonja Huber of Walker, a first-timer with husband Ken.

The couple brought Sonja Huber's sister along from California.

"I just can't believe this!" Karen Winger gasped. "I've never seen so many cookies in my life!"

Deloris Lamb said the volunteers always wonder what they'll do for lunchtime, but there never comes one.

"We were done and out of there and cleaned up by noon," she reported Monday.

For the loyal customers holiday baking is now a tradition of the past.

Let Akeley United Methodist's bakers do the heavy lifting, (or sifting as it were.)

The fundraiser garners in excess of $3,000 for the church.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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