It wasn’t even quarter to seven before shoppers began flooding the Mary, Mother of the Church Parish cookie walk Saturday morning, 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled opening time.
Sweet-toothed community members were eager to get first crack at the assortment of traditional favorites and trendy treats, but they needn’t have worried, as there were over 410 dozen cookies to go around.
From brownies to brittle, thumbprints to fudge, the selection rivaled that of any bakery, with every cookie and candy prepared from scratch by some 100 church members. On Thursday alone, parishioners frosted 1,632 cookies for the 12th annual event, rolling dough out in bulk the day prior at the festively decorated Moose Lodge, the sale’s location for the past six year.
Surrounded by holiday decor, with Mrs. Claus milling about, attendees piled plates high with cookies and candies. Church member Dick Weisbecker loaded up six pounds worth, and one woman was on her fourth trip down the line.
“It’s been little ones, people with canes, men — we love to see the men because that means they’re buying for their wives,” said cookie walk organizer Lu Miller. “Young moms say, ‘This is nice, we don’t have to bake.’ Now they can spend time with their family.”
Along with the time savings, many are inclined to buy extra knowing every cent goes back to the church. Sold for $7 per pound, cookie sales bring in thousands, with $9,000 earned last year between treats, crafts and gift basket raffles.
Funds will help finance the construction of Mary, Mother of the Church’s new parish hall, expected to open in late winter, where the cookie walk will be held next year.
“These cookie walks are helping us to create a new home, yet we’re going to miss the Moose Lodge — their hospitality has been incredible,” the Rev. Brian Konopa said.
“Our hospitality is so important for the people who visit the cookie walk,” Konopa added. “Our parish always has a nice family spirit to it, and it’s amazing the preparation that goes into this.”
Helen Heiser churned out 12 dozen gingersnaps, chocolate kringles and cream wafers, plus three pounds of cashew crunch, for the sale, eager to help out her church.
“Mary, Mother of the Church is a very giving parish,” Heiser said. “We do everything we can to help out.”
Parishioners with sewing, woodworking or crafting skills donated their wares, including an elaborate American Girl doll wardrobe — one of the coveted raffle items —and cloth dolls, purses, ornaments and wooden crosses crafted using boards from the old St. Thomas Moore School. Church members of four decades and craft table organizers Judy Weunsch and Vickie Kloss counted quilted table runners among the most popular sellers, with one customer buying $100 worth.
Also in high demand were rosettes, which Sue Pretasky prepared onsite with a crockpot of oil and an assortment of irons. She anticipated making 100 of delicate cookies.
“I have trouble keeping up — they’re selling as quick as I can make them,” Pretasky said. “(Rosettes) are very tedious and time consuming. I think that’s why people love buying them.”
Rosette fan Rosa Wittenburg, who bought “just enough for myself,” made sure to observe the demo, noting, “I always admire people who can make stuff.”
Wittenburg, who also hit up the crafts, showed off the green crocheted gloves she acquired to match her scarf, while friend Jan Zenker admired the cake pops she bought for her great grandsons.
“I just came to eat and buy,” Zenker said, happy to find enticingly decorated cake pops after past attempts to make them herself yielded less than presentable results.
The sweets proved impressive all around, with the cutout cookies down to their last tray and quick breads clearing out as the cookie walk neared its final hour. Many sat to sample their bounty and enjoy coffee and company, catching up with church friends and smiling at the youngsters noshing on cookies and cider.
“It’s a family event,” Father Konopa said. “Beyond getting the best cookies in town.”
From Tribune files: 1978-1984 Christmas memories from the La Crosse area
1978: Newspaper ad for disco clothes at Tops and Bottoms
1978: Christmas baby
1979: Newspaper ad for Spurgeon's
1979: Ice sculptures
1979: La Crosse Municipal Airport
1979: Christmas tree lot
1979: Onalaska Care Center
1980: Lutheran Hospital
1981: Christmas crafts
1981: Christmas crafts
1981: English Lutheran Church
1982: Valley View Mall
1982: Christmas tree sales lot
1982: English Lutheran Church
1982: Bethany Riverside
1982: Valley View Mall
1983: Valley View Mall
1983: Newburg's Mens Wear
1984: Newspaper ad for Community Camera
1984: Valley View Mall
1984: First Presbyterian Church
1984: Kay Bee Toy Store
Valley View Mall opened its doors at 9:30 a.m. July 31, 1980, in La Crosse. Here’s a look back at the early years of the city’s biggest shoppi…