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A Labor Of Love

Holy Trinity Gears Up For 94th Annual Fastnacht Bake

Phil Haberstroh has been helping with the annual Fastnacht Bake at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 409 Cherry St., Columbia, since he was a child. His grandmother, mother, sisters, and other family members have all played a role in the beloved tradition throughout the years, ensuring that thousands of area residents have the opportunity to purchase fresh, hand-rolled fastnachts before Lent. "We still go to (Haberstroh) for any advice," said Jim Knapp, who runs the fryer room.

To Haberstroh, the many people who commit time and effort to make Holy Trinity's Fastnacht Bake happen every year are what make it so special. "It's just the good people helping," Haberstroh remarked. "Without them, we couldn't do it."

Approximately 166 individuals are involved in the various phases of the operation - from the night crew that measures, weighs, and mixes the ingredients to the army of rollers who arrive at 4 a.m. to shape the dough into fastnachts to those who operate the fryers and still to others who handle sorting, counting, and packing in preparation for pickup.

The 94th annual Fastnacht Bake will kick off on Monday, Feb. 12, with additional bake days on Shrove Tuesday, Feb. 13; and Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14. After that, fastnachts will be baked on Mondays and Wednesdays during the following four weeks of Lent, with the last bake on Wednesday, March 14. Plain and glazed fastnachts may be ordered by the dozen or the half-dozen and picked up at the church on any of the bake days.

All fastnachts must be preordered. There are no walk-in opportunities. Individuals may place orders at http://www.holytrinitycolumbiapa.com beginning on Thursday, Feb. 1. This is the third year that online ordering has been offered, but it will be the first year that all ordering will be completed online. Online ordering has proved to be more convenient for folks and has added to the efficiency of the overall production, said organizer Ed Wickenheiser.

Wickenheiser noted that last year's team of volunteers made 88,000 individual fastnachts for the public. "It's pretty consistent from year to year, because we can only make so many batches in (our time frame)," explained Wickenheiser.

In the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, fastnachts were originally made on Shrove Tuesday to use up any of the stored fat and lard in the kitchen that was forbidden during Lent. Today, many organizations have transitioned to selling commercially produced products for Fastnacht Day, making the homemade version from Holy Trinity an extra special commodity. "There's a commercial fastnacht, and there's one made with love," commented Knapp. "And you have to really love it to do it."

Many of the volunteers are members of the parish, but others come from the surrounding communities to pitch in. "You have some people who just enjoy fastnachts and call to ask if they can help," shared Wickenheiser. "A lot of tender, loving care goes into it, and the people just keep coming back."

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