A Norwegian tradition

Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Lefse enthusiasts flock to St. Olaf to make hallowed flatbread


People love their lefse during the holidays. Members of St. Olaf Lutheran Church love making lefse.

Together, they mark one of the church’s most anticipated times of the year as avid lefse makers come together to create one of St. Olaf’s most lucrative fundraisers.

A traditional potato flatbread out of Norway, lefse has been a popular fundraiser for St. Olaf for as long as Karen Olson can remember. Olson, the co-president of the Women of the ELCA (WELCA) remembers making the holiday side dish for years and as part of a larger drive effort that included a festival atmosphere.

“When we first started out, we wanted to have many activities,” Olson said as she packaged six sheets of lefse to a bag on Monday. “Over the years, people got older and it got to be too much. So we transitioned.”

Olson isn’t kidding either. This time of the year was filled with lefse making, a Used A Bit store, making donuts and three different Swedish meatball meals (one lunch and two dinners).

A nice fundraiser, but an awful lot of work, so the church did transition to fewer events. But lefse making stayed firm.

After potatoes are boiled over the weekend, volunteers spend Monday and Tuesday rolling out bread and frying it. Several stations were set up in the church dining area like a well-oiled machine. As one person rolled out the potato bread, another fried it.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the church would come together three times a year to make lefse and donuts. However, last year the pandemic forced the cancellation of the event, so members were thrilled to be back at it this year.

This is the first of this year and it remains to be seen if there will be more. What doesn’t remain to be seen is the impact its made over the years.

In the year before COVID, the sales brought in over $21,000. Last year, festival activities brought in just $2,450.

And the pandemic continues to have an impact.

“Thinking about this year, the end of June, who knew we would be struggling with COVID again?” Olson said.

However, you wouldn’t know it by Monday morning’s atmosphere. People were laughing, telling stories and enjoying the fellowship that comes with making flatbread.

As for Olson, that’s part of the joy of this annual event — the way people continue to come together.

“I think it’s remarkable how many are willing to come and do lefse and donut-making,” Olson said. “It’s the fellowship we have with one another; realizing what we are doing it for. The importance of the money we can earn and what we can do with it.”