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St. Cecilia’s Church fasnacht sale is approaching quickly, and organizers are again ready to deliver the sugary fried donuts – a Pennsylvania Dutch staple – in staggering quantities.
The sale begins at midnight on Friday, Feb. 17, with the operation running all day and all night Saturday, Feb. 18, and into Sunday, Feb. 19, as long as supplies last.
Up to six dozen fasnachts can be purchased by each individual at a cost of $14 per dozen. Sugared and non-sugared fasnachts will be available.
Fasnachts take their name from the German term meaning “fasting night,” referring to the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
Read More: A short history of Lebanon’s love affair with fasnachts
The sale returned last year after taking 2021 off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s sale will be pretty similar to last year’s, according to event co-chair Ed Hicks, who’s been helping with the St. Cecilia’s fundraiser since he was 13.
Hicks jokes that once you sign up, it’s a life sentence, but in reality he says the event is fun to participate in – and historically the largest fundraiser of the year for the parish.
The sale used to span three days, from Sunday into Tuesday, but the sale dates were modified post-pandemic due to the difficulty of staffing a weekday effort. Today the St. Cecilia’s Festival and the fasnacht sale are about a match in terms of financial benefits for the parish.
“I just enjoy seeing all the people,” said Hicks. “I really try to make sure the volunteers have a good time.”
Last year’s sale finished at approximately 6,000 dozen fasnachts – more than 70,000 individual donuts – sold over 42 hours of around-the-clock work. (That’s about 140 dozen fasnachts per hour.) This amazing feat was made possible by 150-some volunteers who in total donated more than 1,650 hours to the effort. Once you include prep and cleanup, that total jumps to more than 2,100 hours.
If you’d like to volunteer for the sale, find a signup form here. There is also a signup sheet at the parish.
Oftentimes, volunteering is a family affair. For example, Hicks is a third-generation volunteer, with his son Ethan and daughter Sasha serving as fourth-generation helpers. The two ELCO students will help out this year with different parts of sale preparation.
Other organizations also take part in the volunteer effort, including Kohl’s employees and members of a local running group.
In addition to the huge labor effort, an astounding quantity of ingredients go into the sale. Last year, the church ordered about 20,000 pounds of baking supplies, including 11,000 pounds of flour, over 10,000 eggs, and plenty of sugar, margarine, Crisco, and milk to round out the recipe. The milk came from local dairy Patches and the eggs from Lititz-based wholesaler Sauder’s Eggs. The remainder of ingredients came via Sysco.
One change coming to this year’s sale, at the advice of Pastry Chef Brian Peffley, an instructor at Lebanon County Career & Technology Center, will be the addition of digital scales to the prep kitchen. Peffley, who Hicks knows from his days an LCCTC drafting student, has also helped organize student volunteers from the culinary program.
Read More: Local pastry arts instructor named Educator of the Year
The move to digital scales should help the popup industrial-scale kitchen be more consistent in its product, and prevent the person-to-person variances that can come from reading a mechanical scale based on the individual’s height.
Hicks is also preparing a set of troubleshooting guides, such as for the mixers, which suffered a temporary shutdown last year, a production bottleneck that quickly snowballed. As a mechanical engineer, Hicks is well-suited to the task of triaging such situations, but even though he’ll be spending 15-hour days at Saint Cecilia’s during the sale, he also wants to set up the night shift crew for success.
Hicks said that the goal is to always implement ideas that help avoid any pitfalls encountered through previous sales, to take a little stress off the volunteers.
“It’s really just about making it a fun event that provides the community with some enjoyment,” said Hicks. “Both those helping and those eating.”
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