With usual exhibits, food and musical, Schmeckfest kicks offFREEMAN — Students, teachers, alumni and neighbors are hosting their annual Schmeckfest — “festival of tasting” — and after 50 years of feeding massive quantities of homemade dishes to the tables and tables of hungry people, they’ve got one thing figured out: if you cook it, they will come. Kuchen, bean soup, pluma moos, poppyseed rolls, and so much more — this is your grandma’s smorgasbord and people from all over the region and state come to take part.
By: Mari Olson, The Daily Republic
FREEMAN — Students, teachers, alumni and neighbors are hosting their annual Schmeckfest — “festival of tasting” — and after 50 years of feeding massive quantities of homemade dishes to the tables and tables of hungry people, they’ve got one thing figured out: if you cook it, they will come.
Kuchen, bean soup, pluma moos, poppyseed rolls, and so much more — this is your grandma’s smorgasbord and people from all over the region and state come to take part.
The meal is what started it all. With family-style serving at long tables, patrons are fed until they can’t eat any more, and then various kinds of kuchen are passed around, just in case there’s still room.
What began as a large food-oriented, one-day fundraiser in 1959 has grown to 1,000 meal-tickets a night, plus displays, exhibits and a musical that span over two weekends.
Schmeckfest begins Friday and continues Saturday and picks up again next Friday and Saturday at Freeman Academy.
“It’s a little different than what you think of when you think of a German festival,” said LaVonne Brockmueller, auxiliary president. “You think polka and frothy beer — that’s not what it is, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Freeman Academy depends on the fundraiser to provide funding for its school, and the school depends on the good will of its community — and even hungry out-of-staters — to make Schmeckfest a success.
“All the money that is made at Schmeckfest goes toward our general fund here,” said Lori Ortman, a volunteer at the school and a member of the auxiliary executive committee. “So in reality, Schmeckfest keeps our costs lower. … It helps the school pay all our bills and keep our tuition at a reasonable rate.”
It takes about 250 volunteers a night to put the festival in order, Brockmueller said, and that isn’t including the musical cast.
“We just appreciate everything the community (does),” she said. “They clean up the town; they make an effort because they know we’re going to have a lot of company in town. … They are proud of the type of productions we have.”
Brockmueller and her husband used to handle ticket sales and noted through the years that though many visitors to Schmeckfest are alums or community members, there is also a surprising number of patrons with no physical ties to Freeman.
“It was really surprising to see the number of people who come back year after year and have no ties, but keep coming back,” she said.
She credits the quality of food and the musical for its growing and wide-ranging success.
So far for this year, though, the ticket sales have been down.
“We’re not sure what it is; could be the economy,” Brockmueller said.
But with the Schmeckfest just days away and meal tickets still available for every night except March 28, Brockmueller is still pretty optimistic.
“Numbers are down (right now). However, people cannot assume they can buy tickets (the night of),” she said. There may be about 25 meal tickets available each night at the door, but of course, those are first-come, first-serve. The auxiliary asks that people buy their tickets in advance to ensure they will have a seat.
Tickets can be purchased by going to www.schmeckfest.com. There are mail-in order forms and also online ordering. Brockmueller said tickets purchased in the next couple of days for this weekend may not be mailed out, but held at the door for the customer. Call 660-8369 for questions or to arrange to have tickets held at the door. Some sort of identification will be needed for those picking up the tickets.
As of Monday, there were 380 meal tickets available for Friday; none for Saturday; 495 for April 3; and 227 for April 4.
The musical this year is “Into the Woods.”
“The first act is light-hearted, the second portion is a little more serious with a little more of a life lesson,” Brockmueller said. “The music is very difficult, but they’re doing a very fine job with it.”
Musical tickets for floor seating are sold out for this weekend, but there are still bleacher seats available and tickets will be sold at the door. Bleacher seats are $10. There are 10 floor seats left for April 3 and 24 for April 4, which vary in price. Ticket availability, including meals and musicals, can be found at www.schmeckfest.com, which should have the most recent numbers, Brockmueller said.
Every year there are also displays, exhibits and demonstrations, as well as baked goods and homemade sausage for sale. Last year, a change was made and most of the displays were moved into the gymnasium. This practice will continue, with some exhibits also in the museum, such as soap-making, basket-weaving and woodworking. There will also be some displays in the maintenance building, and a return of the noodle making demonstration.
Brockmueller joins many others who have devoted years to raising funds for Freeman Academy. Her husband and two sons are graduates of the academy, and she graduated from the junior college that used to be on campus.
“It’s our school. It’s what we have a devotion to and a commitment to,” she said. “We want to make sure others have that same opportunity that we had to attend there.”