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Redwood Falls men take to the kitchen

Back in 1959, Don Tiffany hit upon a fundraising idea – a community-wide turkey supper.  His church – the Redwood Falls Presbyterians – had built an addition to house their Sunday school classes, and Tiffany decided the  supper would be an ideal way to raise the funds to pay for the structure. And so, in an era when men folk generally did not venture very far into the kitchen, Tiffany set about convincing the men of his church that they should – at least for one night in late autumn. “I don’t think I had a choice,” John Tiffany, younger brother of the late Don Tiffany, quipped of his induction into the ranks of the men’s turkey supper. “Don Tiffany lived and breathed the turkey supper,” Lee Davis, supper chairman, said, adding that virtually all the men of the church are involved in the planning and execution of the supper – and have been for 50 years. (While this year marks the 51st year of its inception, the men had to skip a year – much to the dismay of 1,000 of the local folks – when the supper’s current venue, the local National Guard Armory, was under renovation.) There’s some preparation needed to feed 1,000 hungry people. Several men gather a few weeks ahead of time to take inventory and wrap “silverware.” Wrappers Bob Nolting, his brother Maynard, Wayne Kragh, and John Tiffany were all farmers – and all right around 30 years old – when they worked their first turkey supper in 1959. The “turkey truck” pulled up to the school door close to the cafeteria; it was Bob Nolting’s job to carry the cooked turkeys downstairs to the serving line. As he delivered the birds, he would keep the chairman apprised of how many turkeys were left to serve. “One year we ran out of turkeys,” Bob Nolting said. “The cooks didn’t even get bologna sandwiches.” As they order turkeys to feed 1,000 people, the men know that year’s crowd was exceptionally large. (For the record, it takes 58 turkeys to feed 1,000 people, as well as 10 big cans of corn and 166 pumpkin pies.) While a catering company has prepared the turkey and dressing each year and the grocery store now handles the pie baking, the remainder of the preparations fall to the local men. “We used to slice all the carrots and celery,” Maynard Nolting said, adding that the carrots needed to feed 1,000 people is an awful lot of vegetables to do by hand. “One year Lee Winter brought a whole bunch of carrots (from his garden) and we had to clean them all, too,” Tiffany added. “When they came out with those little carrots, we started using them,” Bob Nolting said. Then, after the supper, there were all those plates to be washed and dried. “That was work,” Maynard Nolting said. In the early years, four cream cans held the coffee; the men used steam from the local dry cleaning establishment to make really hot coffee. Bill and Cora Tiffany peeled all the potatoes and the late Dr. Stephen Inglis was in charge of the Gravy and Dressing Committee. “Nobody could touch the gravy when Steve Inglis was around,” Bob Nolting said. “He wouldn’t really disclose the ingredients.” Inglis’ committee notes from 1965 have been framed and displayed in the church dining room. While there is no gravy recipe printed, except the 15 pounds of flour needed, there are gravy stains and the message, “Have your men stay for cleanup. Only takes a few minutes if everyone helps.” “The sign says cleanup should take just a few minutes,” Kragh chuckled. “We must not be doing something right.” Those 1,000 local folks looking forward to the annual turkey supper will beg to differ – these men must be doing something right! The Noltings, Tiffany and Kragh will be there, as will several third – and some fourth – generation supper workers, ready to serve the community their yearly Presbyterian turkey.

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