Fall Dinner History

by Dena Forret

Eloise Hilgenberg Remembers

Back in the 1970s, I remember the “senior” ladies of St. Boniface Church working to prepare a special meal for around 200 people.  I recall lasagna, spaghetti, and roast beef entrees to name a few.

After several years, turkey and dressing became the menu and it remains the same today.  I can still picture a group of us in the church hall peeling 100 pounds of potatoes, chopping onions & celery,  grinding cranberries, setting out bread for dressing to dry on counter tops and tables, plus accepting the many home cooked turkeys that were being delivered and ready to carve .  We could do nothing but laugh at the mess we were making. All the while, a group was in the hall setting up tables, chairs and decorating.  Not much in that task has changed.  It still takes a crew to do the job, doesn’t it?

Our “Welcome” sign read – REAL MASHED POTATOES and  HOMEMADE PIES…CRAFT & BAKE SALE.

Two years later, I remember we made a change to how we did the dinner.  I recall standing at the church podium asking for donations of cooked and carved turkeys as well as peeled potatoes ready for boiling.  After the masses that weekend, we had met 90% of our goal with 100% completion soon after.  What a relief and it works the same today!

The dinner was also a fun day for the children.  Gene Dluhos made a carnival game room.  In a second room, books were eagerly read to the children.  But soon our dinner attendance numbers outgrew our dining space.  We sadly had to give up the two rooms for more dining tables.  It was a great year when we broke all records and served over 400 people.

One incident that still brings goose bumps to me was the year a winter storm knocked out Waukee’s electricity.  What should we do?  Do we cancel?  We arrived early and found that a small portion of Waukee had electricity including the parish hall.  What a blessing! Was someone above looking over us?  I believe “yes” to this day!  Our numbers that year went way up as people in town heard the dinner was still on. We ran low on food and I’m sure we ran out of some things; but people were thankful for food, lights and heat. Many prayers of thanksgiving were said that day.

Our number continued to improve, our church participation grew and the success of our dinners continued.  We had outgrown the old St. Boniface Hall.  When the 1980s rolled around, the “senior” ladies decided it was time to pass the reins to the next generation.  We moved to our new beautiful kitchen and a new generation of St. Boniface parishioners took over.

Our fall dinners are still noted for our good food, homemade pies, bake sale and now basket raffles.  But the turkey, dressing and ‘real’ mashed potatoes are still the highlights of the day.

Eloise Hilgenberg joined St. Boniface parish in 1960.  She became involved in parish activity in 1980 during the time of Fr. Tom Pfeffer’s pastoral leadership.  Eloise became head of the Fall Dinner in 1985 and held that position for several years. 

 Kayla Engebrecht Remembers

Kayla becomes very animated when talking about our St. Boniface Fall Dinners and eagerly shares her memories.  “My old memories of the Turkey Dinner are filled with long lines and lots of excitement!  Years ago, all families would bring two 2-liters of pop and a cake for the Cake Walk. Essentially, the “Cake Walk” consisted of kids walking around in a circle (with numbered pages on the floor), as music played.  When the music stopped, a number was selected and the child standing on that number was able to pick a cake to take home. Let’s be honest, we all ended up winning at some point. What a sweet deal!! (pun intended) It was such a fun event that we all looked forward to it every year!”

Kayla Engebrecht joined St. Boniface at the age of two with her mother Becky Lynch and Aunt Marcia Lynch in 1984.  She is a very active member and currently serves on the Parish Council, Multi-Media Communications Committee and High School Youth Ministry Formation.

Dena Angaran Forret Remembers

I remember church dinners in the original brick hall before the addition of classrooms, a new kitchen and bathrooms.  It consisted of a long hall space that included a narrow kitchen and two old bathrooms at the back of the hall.  A wood burning fireplace stood at the front of the hall which could be separated by long green drapes, creating a small private space.  Religious education classes, wedding receptions (including my own in 1969) and social events were held in the original building for years.

The men of our parish were the dishwashers.  They did the dishes outside and under a tent instead of in the cramped kitchen.  A door to the west of the hall led to the tent where men busily washed dishes in large steel gray water troughs (instead of kitchen sinks) that were provided by farmers.  As a young girl, I enjoyed serving beverages and clearing tables.  I can still remember the fun I had hauling loads of dirty dishes to the men for washing.  I must confess that I did spill coffee on one of our guests.  During those days, we did so much with a lot less but the end result was the same.  Over the years, our church dinners have provided a time for building relationships, supporting the church and taking responsibility as a member of St. Boniface Catholic Church.

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