Women, parish eager to reach out to community with pie: prayer, inspiration and evangelization
Story by S.L. Hansen
SEWARD (SNR) – It may not be deep-fried and served on a stick, but when it comes to fair food, nothing can beat the wholesome deliciousness of homemade pie.
That’s especially true at the Seward County Fair, where the St. Vincent de Paul Parish Council of Catholic Women (PCCW) will serve pie, ice cream and coffee for the eighth year in a row. This year the fair will be held Aug. 10-13.
The annual fair pie sale has become the St. Vincent de Paul PCCW’s most successful fundraiser.
With thousands of people attending the free, family-friendly fair each year, there is a lot of preparation so that there is no danger of running out of pie. PCCW members (and a couple of male parishioners) produced 128 pies during two workdays in mid July.
“Each session was set up with the assembly line idea,” said parishioner Sue Bollwit, pie chairman.
Volunteers chose a station: making crusts, making filling (one pie at a time), assembling pies, crimping crusts, or labeling, wrapping and boxing the pies for storage in a freezer until the fair begins. Then they got to work, using up 100 pounds of flour, 75 pounds of sugar, five gallons of oil, three bottles of almond extract, untold quantities of spices, and a mountain of fruit.
The ingredients include fruit donated by parishioners, as well also some items purchased at sale prices from the local Pac and Save, using money donated by PCCW members who were unable to attend the pie-making work days.
Right before the fair, another 100 pies will be made.
“These are the pies that cannot be made in advance,” Bollwit explained. “They include family favorites like pumpkin and pecan, cool pies like chocolate cream, and meringue pies.”
On fair days, the PCCW sets up in the air-conditioned Ag Pavilion, where the dining hall seats 750 people. They share the kitchen with others who have the meal contracts, but everybody gets along.
“We promote their menu, and they direct those who eat meals to come to us for dessert,” Bollwitt said.
It takes about 200 volunteers to cover all the shifts during the four-day fair, but the PCCW has plenty of help from their own family members as well as the Knights of Columbus Council #10795. The Knights do the transporting of supplies and heavy lifting, then set up a table near the pie booth to sell their raffle tickets.
Each morning of the fair, Bollwitt and the other ladies of the PCCW determine how many of each flavor pie to bake. The Ag Pavillion’s two convection ovens are kept busy all day, producing beautifully browned crusts and bubbly hot filling.
“The aroma of the fresh pies fills the hall,” Mrs. Bollwitt. “That is some of the best advertising we do.”
This year, Seward County Fair goers will be able to choose from 14 different flavors: apple, blueberry, cherry, peach, strawberry rhubarb, rhubarb, mixed berry, cherry-peach, cherry cheesecake pie, banana cream, coconut cream, chocolate cream, lemon cream, and chocolate peanut butter.
Bollwitt said the recipes were handed down to her from her mother: “Old recipes, but they have withstood the test of time!”
Pies are cut into seven generous slices instead of eight, and each slice sells for $3. A scoop of vanilla ice cream can be added for 50 cents, and coffee is another 50 cents. A plain dish of ice cream, for those who eschew pie, is 75 cents. On the last day of the fair, depending on how their supplies are holding out, the PCCW will sell whole pies for $15.
Proceeds are used to fund the PCCW’s annual parish contributions. They purchase altar supplies, donate to youth programs, host the annual Confirmation reception, sponsor a family night each fall and a Christmas gathering each winter. They also host a tea for women who have achieved “the golden age.”
Bollwitt said the pie booth has replaced the bazaar the PCCW used to have. It’s not only a moneymaker, but also a way to reach out as evangelists. The county fair pie booth, she said, “allowed us a way to reach out to the community by going where ‘community’ gathers, which is the annual county fair.”
To help bolster the message of Christ’s love, the PCCW designed and produced bookmarks that refer to “living the life of PIE.” That stands for prayer, inspiration and evangelization.
They also invite the residents of Ridgewood, the local long-term care facility, to come enjoy pie on Friday mornings before the building opens and the hustle and bustle begins.
Fair-goers can visit the St. Vincent de Paul PCCW pie booth during the Seward County Fair, Thursday from 5 p.m. until closing, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until closing, and Sunday from 11 a.m. until they run out of pies.
“Come to the fair. Come to the pie booth,” Mrs. Bollwitt urged. “They are the small -town experiences that do not require an admission fee, the environment is comfortable and the people are always friendly.”