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A 92-year community tradition

Though the menu, and even the location of the church may have changed through the years, the May Day breakfast at Detroit Lakes' United Methodist Church has been a community tradition for more than 90 years.

"It's been held every year since 1919, but some think it may even have been longer than that," says DLUMC member Eloise Irvine, who has been a part of preparations for the annual breakfast for as long as she can remember.

"Duane 'Doc' Wething said he thinks it's the longest continuously-running annual event in the community," says Natalie Bellefeuille, another longtime UMW member who has been involved in planning the breakfast for many years.

Irvine says one of her fondest memories is the African violets that one of the congregation members used to grow, and bring the plants to the breakfast for display on the tables.

"Every table had the most gorgeous plants you ever saw," Irvine says. "They were so pretty."

She also remembers picking crocuses near the railroad tracks in Audubon for use in the May Day bouquets.

Bellefeuille, meanwhile, remembers watching her mother flip pancakes for the event every year.

"It made me feel so proud," she says. "It was such a treat to come down to the basement and see my mom flip those pancakes -- that was her spot every May Day, for as long as she was able."

Another tradition, begun when the local Methodist church was still located downtown, was for the UMW members to go door-to-door at all the downtown businesses in order to sell tickets.

"Some (business owners) would buy tickets for their employees, so they could all come have breakfast before work," says Bellefeuille.

Another tradition was for all the members of the local Eastern Star chapter to buy tickets and come to the breakfast together.

"They were the only group I knew of that specifically requested to sit together," Bellefeuille says. "They always had to sit in the same place."

Since its beginnings, the annual breakfast has traditionally been held on May 1, rain or shine -- but this year, May 1 fell on a Sunday, which would have conflicted with not only the church's own services, but others as well.

"There may be even more people that come from other churches (than from the Methodist church itself)," says Marcia Potvin, who is co-chairing this year's breakfast along with Mary Wichmann and Sherry Zweerink.

"This is more than just a Methodist thing -- it's a community event."

So the members of the United Methodist Women -- who host the annual breakfast -- began discussing the possibility of holding it on the Saturday before May Day.

The only problem was, another UMW event was being planned for the same day in Park Rapids, and several members of the group were planning to attend.

"It (the breakfast) almost didn't happen this year," says Potvin.

But ultimately, they decided that it couldn't be discontinued, and the breakfast was set for Friday, April 29, with serving from 7 to 10:30 a.m.

"It's such a long-standing tradition, it simply needs to continue," says Wichmann, who was one of the three who stepped forward to take charge of the event.

Though the men of the congregation now take part in the planning and preparations as well, the breakfast began as a project of the Detroit Lakes UMW, who continue to host the event each year.

"We never had the men to help us before, but now we do," Irvine says with a smile.

"A lot of them come in and get the griddle ready, fry pancakes, work in the dish room -- they'll even wait tables," adds Bellefeuille.

"Everybody in the church helps out with the breakfast, but the UMW has always organized it," adds Potvin.

Proceeds from the breakfast are used to support DLUMW mission projects, which last year included significant contributions to the Compassion House men's shelter being built by The Refuge Christian Outreach Center, and to emergency ministry projects in Haiti and Sudan.

A total of $4,500 in mission projects were funded by the DLUMW last year, with the majority of the money coming from the May Day breakfast, a fall supper and two rummage sale events, says Bellefeuille.

Approximately 160 people attended last year's breakfast, Potvin says, though Bellefeuille notes that "I think we've served as many as 400."

The April 29th breakfast will run from 7 to 10:30 a.m., with adults admitted for $5 each, kids ages 6-12 for $3, and those under age 6 for free. This year's menu will include pancakes, sausage, eggs, toast, juice, coffee and milk.

For more information, please contact the Detroit Lakes United Methodist Church at 218-847-4818.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454