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Minnesota church calls time on its lutefisk dinner after 70 years

Faith Lutheran in Forest Lake has struggled to find new volunteers to help out.

A 70-year-old lutefisk tradition is coming to an end at a Forest Lake church – and it has nothing to do with the taste.

Faith Lutheran Church Pastor John Klawiter wrote on his church blog earlier this month that the Faith Lutheran Scandinavian Dinner – otherwise known as "The Lutefisk Dinner" – is no more.

It had been held every year between 1946 and 2017, as church members would tuck in to the gelatinous lye-soaked cod, and other traditional accompaniments including lefse, caranberries, meatballs and potatoes.

While lutefisk has its (many) detractors, the reason the annual dinner is ending is because it's become increasingly hard work for its aging volunteers, with not enough younger volunteers coming forward to take over.

Around 150 male and female volunteers would staff the event, which would serve 500 people on Holy Tuesday, the 2nd Tuesday of December, every year.

Klawiter notes that the event also recently lost one of its biggest supporters, Wayne Knutson, who would buy all the leftover lutefisk after the event. 

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As Knutson's daughter, Sandy Zarembinski, says in Klawiter's blog, the average age of the core volunteers has reached around 75, and she said it's become more and more difficult to find younger volunteers to replace those who have either died or can't physically help anymore.

Klawiter notes that there are a few lutefisk dinners that are still going strong nearby, including at Elim Lutheran in Scandia and Christ Lutheran at Marine on St. Croix.

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