CEDAR RAPIDS — The sun had yet to rise Friday when Pam Purington pulled her car into the lot beside St. Ludmila Catholic Church and claimed the first spot in an annual line of cars waiting to pick up a plate of prized pastries.
It was 4:20 a.m., more than 90 minutes before the Cedar Rapids church began its morning drive-through sale of kolaches, marking the official start of the 2017 Kolach Festival.
“I wanted to make sure I got kolaches,” Purington said. “I’ve been coming here all my life. Usually I just come to the festival to get kolaches but this year I decided to do the drive-through.”
Vehicles wound around corners and filled the streets of the neighborhood around St. Ludmila’s, 211 21st Ave. SW, as police helped direct traffic.
The 45th annual festival runs through Sunday at the church and kolaches are available for purchase at the following times:
l Friday — 5 to 9 p.m.
l Saturday — 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (or until sold out).
l Sunday — 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. (or until sold out).
Cost is $12 for a dozen or $6 for a half dozen. Flavors this year are apple, apricot, cherry, poppy seed, prune and strawberry.
The festival also includes music. carnival games, a kolach eating contest, and Mass. For a full schedule of this weekend’s festivities, visit kolachfestival.org.
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“It’s a great opportunity for St. Ludmila’s parish to welcome the larger Cedar Rapids community in,” said Melissa McCarville, a festival committee member who has been attending the event since she was a little girl.
“It’s kind of rooted in tradition for me. I was a parishioner here back when I was little,” McCarville said. “What’s fun is I used to come to (the festival) when I was little, around 2, now I have a 2-year-old daughter that I can bring to keep that family tradition going.
“And the kolaches don’t hurt either.”
For many like McCarville, attending and participating in the Kolach Festival is a cherished tradition. For one of the bakers involved in preparing the kolaches for this weekend, it’s a tradition that dates back more than 35 years.
“When it first started we used to have to take orange juice cans and cut them all by hand and roll them,” volunteer Dorothy Nemecek recalled. “Now we have the machine that does all that.”
Nemecek said she tries to volunteer whenever she can.
“It’s a good cause and we’ve got the best kolaches,” she added.
Volunteers have the process down and work diligently to deliver the tasty treats to customers.
“It’s a well-oiled machine,” said Father Ken Glaser of St. Ludmila’s, who is attending his first Kolach Festival this year. “The money is part of it but the bigger thing is trying to bring the community together. It’s just amazing to see how many people come.”
The numbers are somewhat staggering: 60,000 kolaches — that’s 5,000 dozen — are made over the course of the weekend and tend to sell out quickly.
“This year everyone’s coming a lot earlier,” said Jim Hackney of Cedar Rapids, who has been attending the festival for many years and arrived at 5 a.m. Friday to claim his spot in line.
“It’s fantastic,” Hackney said. “You can never have too many kolaches, especially on this beautiful weekend.”
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Schedule of Events
Here are some highlights of the 2017 St. Ludmila’s Kolach Festival:
5 to 9 p.m. — Kolach sales, carnival rides, games, food and beer.
4:30 to 6:30 p.m. — Ducey & Johnson perform
6:30 to 9 p.m. — The Gamblers perform
7 a.m. to 9 p.m. — Kolach sales
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. — Carnival rides, games, food and beer
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Cherry Car Show (awards ceremony at 3:30 p.m.)
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — McMurrin & Johnson perform
Noon — Big Wheel races
1 to 2 p.m. — Kolach Eating Contest
2 to 4 p.m. — Brooke and the Two Hearted performs
4 p.m. — Mass
4:30 to 6:30 p.m. — Brown & Johnson perform
6:30 to 9 p.m. — Soul Sacrifice performs
7 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Kolach sales
8 a.m. — Mass
10 a.m. to noon — Czech Plus Band performs
10:30 a.m. — Polka Mass featuring Jim Busta Band with Mollie B
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Pork and dumpling dinner
Noon — Big Wheel races
Noon to 2 p.m. — Jim Busta Band with Mollie B performs
2 p.m. — Raffle drawing