Holy Hotdish is back

FAIRMONT – “Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine,” read a sign posted in the dining hall at First Congregational United Church of Christ, in front of a hay wagon stuffed with empty beer bottles.

It was an unusual scene for a church, but then again the Holy Hotdish Cookoff is meant to capture the public’s attention.

Tuesday was the first Holy Hotdish dinner of the season in Fairmont, a tradition that began in 2010 to help build excitement about Interlaken Heritage Days. Each Tuesday leading up to the June 14-17 summer festival, a different competing church – or service club – will open its doors for the community to enjoy an affordable meal and an evening of fun fellowship. Diners’ votes help determine the best meal and overall experience, with the winner announced at Interlaken Heritage Days.

This year, the cookoff is taking a new spin, with each church looking back on a historical event that impacted its congregation, and using that event as a theme for its dinner.

Diners and servers at First Congregational enjoyed some laughs as they relived the days of old, when Carrie A. Nation, a notorious prohibitionist, visited the church in 1903 in spread her message and gather support.

Nation described herself as a “bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like,” and she became infamous for her “hatchetations,” in which she would march into saloons with a Bible and a hatchet, smashing bottles, mirrors and windows. Whether there was a “hatchetations” at any of Fairmont’s seven Main Street saloons while Nation was in town, no one could say, but they had a good time imagining what it would have been like.

Becky Phillips, one of the servers, estimated about 250 people showed up for the meal. Typically, the attendance builds each week.

“It’s good the community supports these,” said Linda Meschke, one of many loyal patrons who attend as many of the dinners each year as their schedules allow.

Next Tuesday, the competition will heat up at Grace Lutheran Church, where organizers plan to use a fire that broke out at the church as the inspiration for their dinner theme.

Serving times for the Holy Hotdish Cookoff are 5-7 p.m. Date and hosts for the following dinners will be:

o May 7 at United Methodist Church

o May 14 at Fairmont Eagles Club

o May 21 at St. John’s UCC

o May 28, with the IHD committee hosting at St. John’s UCC

o June 4 at Immanuel Lutheran Church

o June 11 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.