Walking the (cookie) walk

THREE HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE — Val Hayes, Janel Rau and Barb Olson are once again overseeing Zion Lutheran Church’s Holiday Cookie Walk, which is in its 20th year.

Zion Lutheran’s 20th annual Holiday Cookie Walk is Saturday

By Per Peterson

The annual Zion Lutheran Church Holiday Cookie Walk — labeled by some as Tracy’s social event of the year — undergoes some kind of change, big or small, every year. But it’s not because of a lack of success.
“We’ve refined it through the years,” said Janel Rau, who sits on the event’s planning committee with Barb Olson and Val Hayes. “We try to see what works well — where we put the cashier, where we put the craft items, how we organize the whole basement. I think it gets a little better every year.”
The 2017 version is Saturday — and it’s the 20th anniversary of the first one. Doors open at 9:15 a.m. Attendees can register for door prizes upstairs, at which time they will receive a number — “just like the old-fashioned lutefisk suppers where you sat upstairs and got a number, and when they called your number you could go down to eat,” said Olson. “When you get your number, you can go down and do your shopping. Otherwise it can get so congested.”
The take-a-number process has been going on for a number of years and has worked well enough to leave it alone.
“We call 10 numbers at a time,” Olson said. “While people are waiting upstairs we have Christmas music playing on a CD, and the pastor goes around and visits with people.”
Attendees can take as much time as they’d like shopping until their buckets are full. And speaking of those buckets, they cost $12, but if you bring in one from a previous year, there’s only a $10 charge to feed your sweet tooth.
“You can’t bring your own,” Rau said.
“It’s a red bucket that we special order,” said Hayes. “It has to be one of ours that they have already purchased.”
Another unique aspect of Zion Lutheran’s cookie walk is that shoppers can pick and choose what they want to put in their bucket — they aren’t stuck with treats they don’t like that are bagged with ones they do.
Cookies with nuts in them are marked as such.
“If you want 10 of this and one of that, you can have that,” Rau said.
“In some places, they have them already in Ziploc bags,” Olson said. “It’s really kind of nice to pick and choose.”
“If you have a favorite you can help yourself,” Rau said.
A bulk of the proceeds from the annual event goes to the local food shelf. The church also gives money to the Tracy Area High School After Prom party, to church needs, missions and to the church seminary, Bethel Lutheran in Mankato. Last year, the event raised about $3,000. The cookie walk is the church’s only fundraiser of the year.
The event started in 1997 when Faith Lutheran Church closed, Olson said. It initially was held at the Senior Center on a Thursday night while the downtown stores were open. In 2001, the cookie walk was moved to Zion Lutheran.
Anywhere between 800 dozen to 1,000 dozen goodies are made and brought to the cookie walk.
“Most everyone takes part,” Olson said. “Last year, almost 100 percent of our members brought something, whether it’s cookies, or baked goods, or a craft item.”
Since the cookie walk comes in December, weather can always potentially play a negative role. However, for the most part, weather has not been a detriment.
“We’ve been really blessed,” Hayes said. “One of the first years we did it, it snowed, and it was a blizzard. We only had about 500 dozen (cookies), but people lined up for it.”
“We’ve never used a snow date,” Rau said. “Knock on wood.”
“God’s watching out for us the whole time,” said Olson, who has made peanut brittle and anise for Saturday and, like her cohorts, have been practically living in their kitchen this week. The trio says it’s important to make the cookies as close to the event as possible to ensure freshness.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” Hayes said. “This week has been really busy because you want everything fresh — you don’t want to be baking months in advance.”
This week has also been spent decorating the church for the big event.
“We should just about bring sleeping bags to the church,” Olson quipped.
Hayes said church members can deliver their treats to the church starting today (Wednesday).
The cookie walk runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., but it typically ends long before 12:30 p.m.
“We sell out of the majority of them by 10:45 to 11,” said Hayes.