Masons’ doughnuts are a sweet Maple Leaf tradition
Excluding hot chocolate, the perfect recipe for a chilly Maple Leaf Festival has been doughnuts and hot cider.
For 41 years, the Masonic Lodge has been satisfying annual festival goers’ appetites. This year was definitely no exception as it was their best selling festival in a long time … maybe ever.
“This year we did very, very well,” said Tom Kleist, Masonic Lodge master. “Since I’ve been here, this was our busiest year. I think the weather helped us. We had hot doughnuts and hot cider and it was chilly all day Saturday. On Sunday, we started getting requests for cold cider about 3 or 4 p.m. Prior to that, they wanted the warm stuff.”
Business was so good they ran out of doughnut mix Sunday afternoon shortly before the festival ended. The lodge made about $2,600 profit from this year’s festival. Half of that money will go to the Masonic Lodge and the other half to the Order of the Eastern Star, a women’s group that helps run the booth.
On Saturday, they sold around 4,500 doughnuts and then about half that amount on Sunday. Kleist said they don’t sell many on Sunday morning, but their business picked up that afternoon.
“Most of the time, the line was out to sidewalk,” he said. “Many times, it went out to the center of the street. People weren’t complaining about it, either.”
The Masonic Lodge booth benefited from additional workers for the 52nd Maple Leaf Festival. New members volunteered their time to help with their largest fundraiser.
Merle Shultz, Masonic Lodge member, said the new guys stepped up and helped run the booth, which was open about nine hours each day. Kleist agreed, saying they also kept customers laughing.
“This year with the new younger guys, it was fun, because they are really gregarious and they have a gift of gab,” Kleist said. “Our machine isn’t fast, but Scott Erwin kept telling everyone we have it on turbo speed. I turned to him and the crowd and said ‘the only turbo we have around here is his mouth.’ People enjoy that and they stay in line.”
Communication and knowing many of the annual customers helps bring the doughnut eaters back each year. Another draw to their booth is the doughnut-making machine. People, especially children, will watch the doughnuts be dropped into the oil, flipped over and covered with sugar.
“It’s a very common thing and it’s rewarding to us for them to be that interested in it,” said Archer Carlson, Masonic Lodge member who helped start the booth 41 years ago. “Watching a mechanical thing make something you’re going to eat is quite interesting to someone who hasn’t ever seen one.”
After 41 years, the “magic” of the doughnut machine remains the same. The only difference is the Masonic Lodge purchased its own machine around eight years ago.
“They will pick out one and they will watch it all the way through the process,” Shultz said. “Then it gets done and they’re like ‘I want that one.’
“If you hear it once, you hear it from every other person, but it wouldn’t be Maple Leaf without the Masonic doughnuts,” he said. “We’ve had compliments from people who have come here since they can remember.”
It began 41 years ago as a fundraiser for the lodge members and it was popular then, too. Carlson said the idea for doughnuts has been a success for more than four decades.
“We started it as a money-making project for Maple Leaf,” he said. “There were all of these people around and they needed to eat something.”
They will continue selling doughnuts and cider for many years, maybe another 41, if business continues like this year.
“This year was a lot of fun,” Kleist said. “Three years ago when it rained, we were shorthanded and we wanted to go home. This year, we had fun and we were able to get out and enjoy the whole festival.”