First Lutheran finds ‘fisk success

POULSBO — It was a reunion of old friends and a time to make new ones Saturday at the 95th annual First Lutheran Church Lutefisk Dinner, where more than 1,000 people made their way from both near and far for a taste of the famous codfish.

Those looking for a well-rounded Norwegian feast and others craving just a bite of the venerated ‘fisk alike flocked in droves to what promises each year to be a smorgasbord of Little Norway delight. Continually a favorite for families since its start in 1913, the lutefisk dinner was once again a hit, proving the force of volunteers has perfected their dishes that eaters can’t pass by.

“We all meet here every year,” said Shoreline resident Laurie Shierk, who traveled to join several family members from around the Seattle area. “We actually like lutefisk.”

Shierk said her family attends several Norwegian meal events, but Poulsbo’s is always one of their favorites.

“This one has more of the Norwegian, Scandinavian feeling,” added family member Judy Nelson, who said she enjoys the ambiance of music and heritage the event has to offer. She said the family has been attending for more than 30 years, and while most of their group enjoy lutefisk, it isn’t a requirement.

“I’m 100 percent of Norwegian descent, but I can’t stand it,” said family member Jan Beamer, who even sported an anti-lutefisk button. Though the fish couldn’t tempt her, the meatballs, potatoes, pickled herring and lefse certainly did.

Cook Ken Davis said he made up 5,000 meatballs Friday — a task that took more than five hours. Though he’s served at the event for eight years, compared to many, his status is still a novice one.

“I’m a rookie,” he joked.

Event veteran Gordon Stenman, who’s peeled and cooked potatoes since 1962, said happenings in the kitchen — where at least 30 workers kept food fresh and hot — were rolling along smoothly.

“It’s just great,” he said of the crowd, many of whom he’s developed friendships with over the years. “You only see these people once a year.”

Greeter Chet Gausta, who put in his 40th year welcoming eaters to the Little Norway celebration, echoed Stenman’s sentiments, and said it is seeing out-of-towners join in the fun that makes the event so beloved. He said even Saturday’s dreary weather couldn’t keep the devoted lutefisk aficionados at bay.

“I guess if you like lutefisk, nothing’s going to stop you,” he said.

Gausta’s longtime greeting partner, Earl Hanson, who chalked up year 52 at the event’s entrance Saturday, joked that ushering in the crowds is a tough gig, but somebody’s got to do it.

“Chet and I have the toughest job in the whole world,” he said with a laugh, just before posing for a photo with Miss Poulsbo Alex Duchemin. Duchemin later entertained the crowd with a song. The Clover Blossom Band also performed for diners at the event.

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