Vinland Fair annual Whole-Hog Sausage benefit has deep roots
Historical records are scarce, but this Saturday night's Whole Hog Sausage and Pancake Supper from 5 to 7 p.m. in the historic Vinland Fair Exhibition Hall is probably the granddaddy of the area's pancake suppers.
Max Moore, 95, of rural Baldwin City recalls that when he and his late wife, Doris, were first married in 1940, they joined the Vinland Grange, which sponsored the 107 year old Vinland Grange Fair.
“”The Grangers were looking for ways to get more money for the fair,” Max recalls.
“They got the idea for a pancake supper featuring sausage made from the entire pig carcass, including the hams, shoulders and loins, instead of sausage made from the pork scraps. For years I sold the pig for the sausage to the Grange at a greatly reduced price. Most of the time since then, others in the Vinland area also have sold hogs at reduced prices for the supper.”
The Grangers had the pigs butchered and the sausage ground and seasoned at a local meat processing plant. Then Grange women and teenagers undertook the task of making the sausage into patties.
The attendance at the supper was usually between 300 and 400 people with most of them buying the “large” supper with all the pancakes each wanted and two sausage patties — that's around 600 patties. School children wrapped silverware and dusted chairs.
For years, the supper was called the Ground Hog Supper because it was scheduled either on Ground Hog Day or close to Feb. 2.
The Grange Hall, where the supper was held, had no central heating system but only a large coal stove and no indoor plumbing nor water. Water was brought in milk cans. Batter was mixed by hand in a 10-gallon milk can. The late Fred Gottstein, Grange treasurer, did the hard work of mixing the flour mixture and water with a paddle. This went on until Moore improvised a mixer system.
“I told Fred to bring his electric drill, and I made mixer paddles from an electric fence post,” Moore said. “I cut the post off about three feet from the bottom and shaped it to fit into the drill. The stabilizers near the end of the post served as paddles. It worked great, and Fred really appreciated it. It was so much easier on his back and shoulders.”
For a time in the 1970s and 1980s the suppers were not held, but in the middle 80s the suppers were revived and have been held with some changes ever since. The site has been changed to the Exhibition Building on the fairgrounds. The building has undergone some renovation and is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The sausage is still whole hog sausage, but is now shaped into patties at the butcher shop. Volunteers still do the sausage and pancake frying, pancake mixing (with electric mixers). The date for the annual supper is now in March. And the present Vinland Fair Board assisted by community members still do all of the work and give the profits to the fair association.
And this year the board even purchased a new grill. There was some discussion on how old the vintage grill was, but no one could recall how or when it was purchased and besides, new parts for the grill were unavailable.