First Prairie Pastry Festival a success

Sleigh rides, caroling, and baked goods sweeten this fundraiser for pediatric cancer

Photo: Ellen Schafer

Photo: Ellen Schafer

Larrie Wanberg
Features Editor

A steady flow of families enjoyed a nostalgic experience at the first annual Prairie Pastry Festival in Bismarck, December 9.

Held in the historic frontier-town park of “Buckstop Junction,” the festival featured sleigh rides, caroling in a village venue from the past, food and frolic, and old-time music in the 100-year-old Lewis Hotel. Families gathered for hot chocolate and goodies from a buffet table laden with pastries like grandmother used to make.

In the large pavilion room, they listened to the toe-tapping music on stage with Bob TeKippe playing songs with historic instruments and also with Adrian Jacob’s “Bravehearts Band” and the Dakota Short-neck Orchestra featuring mandolins, violin, ukuleles, and other short-neck historic stringed instruments.

Photo: Ellen Schafer The Bravehearts Band entertained at the Prairie Pastry Festival. From left to right: Terry Mastel on octave mandolin, Greg Lord (back), Adrian Jacobs, Jason Jacobs (back), Trevor Griffin (back), Kriste Erickson (lead vocals, front), and Megan Griffin on Violin.

Photo: Ellen Schafer
The Bravehearts Band entertained at the Prairie Pastry Festival. From left to right: Terry Mastel on octave mandolin, Greg Lord (back), Adrian Jacobs, Jason Jacobs (back), Trevor Griffin (back), Kriste Erickson (lead vocals, front), and Megan Griffin on Violin.

Pastries brought to the event were judged for prizes before the pastries were offered to attendees. Entries came from far and wide across the prairie, including some distant boxes of pastries from California and from Denver to contribute to the fundraising.

“Many great pastries were placed before me in a blind tasting contest, but one stood out from the rest,” said Jon Lee, owner of Bread Poets Baking Company in Bismarck. Jon is of Norwegian descent with the original name of Lie, and is a prominent local baker.

Winner Brian Jacobs glowed with pride at winning first prize. “It was wonderful that a recipe handed down from my maternal great grandmother took first prize.”

Marlette Pittman of the Missouri Valley Historical Society commented, “We were happy to participate with Bravehearts in their inaugural Pastry Festival. Already looking forward to next year.”

Photo: Ellen Schafer Sleigh rides for families were popular on the historic grounds of Buckstop Junction. Roy Bergquest is driving the team of horses with Larry Bergquest and son standing at right of photo.

Photo: Ellen Schafer
Sleigh rides for families were popular on the historic grounds of Buckstop Junction. Roy Bergquest is driving the team of horses with Larry Bergquest and son standing at right of photo.

Ellen Schafer, legislative advocate for American Cancer Association in Bismarck, was in charge of organizing the pastry table. She remarked, “Events like this pastry festival bring back so many memories that families used to share, like sleigh rides, gathering around with music and singing, and there is something about pastries that brings out the best in people.

Vicki Olsen, an attendee, noted, “What a tasty way to help kids and celebrate the season!”

The Jacobs brothers, Brian and Jason, swept first and second prize with their mother’s Bohemian “Boukta” recipe and an entry, baked onsite, of “Kolaches” with pineapple and orange marmalade filling. A mystery remains about brother Jason’s failure to deliver Bohemian “Sour Cream Twists,” which had been shipped from Denver. In betting circles, they were projected to win or place.

Having left the pastries in his freezer 100 miles from Bismarck, his explanation was, “I was so rushed to get on the road that I just plain forgot.” Rumor has it that his kids got to the box before he could.

Adrian Jacobs, the oldest of ten Jacobs siblings, is a musician, inventor, and community activist, who organized the event through the family’s non-profit organization called “Bravehearts for Kids,” in collaboration with other non-profits and Missouri Valley Historical Society at Buckstop Junction, a recreated historic town.

The story of the Pastry Festival started on a farm near the small town of New England N.D. (pop 600), where patriarch Walter and Lu (Maixner) Jacobs raised ten children in the love of music, entertainment, storytelling, and caring for others. Music was part of Sunday afternoons on the porch that overlooked the great expansiveness of the prairie and river breaks of Western N.D. The Jacobs family organized an annual pastry festival in their community for five years after their children gradually migrated to urban living.

Adrian’s son Jeremy wanted to be an astronaut and later studied engineering and became the chief materials engineer on the Orion project, now testing for new outer space explorations. After Jeremy and Amy Jacobs’ daughter Ava Brae was born, she was diagnosed at 12 months with a lemon-sized tumor at her brain stem.

As Jeremy’s work in NASA was associated with some medical studies of radiation, Ava was selected as one of the first test group to receive experimental post-surgery cancer treatments and now, in fourth grade, she is a class champion soccer player with trophies to prove it. During her chemo treatments she was nicknamed Ava Brave by friends and nurses; hence, the charity name Bravehearts. (A previous NAW story of “Ava Brave” was published at www.na-weekly.com/heritage/a-storybook-journey-in-space/).

Bravehearts has a mission to raise money to support families who have a child with pediatric cancer, with 100% of personal donations raised going directly to families. Administrative costs are planned to come from grants and an innovative plan for self-sufficiency in fund-raising.

Bravehearts is exploring a new concept of event management as a fundraising “co-op,” with the intent to fund the non-profit by creating a “Buffalo Berry” venture that pays for all administrative costs. This initiative empowers youth across the state to pick bushels of buffalo berries next fall (growing naturally in ditches and ravines statewide), create collection points regionally, and contract with a production company to process and package jams, syrups, and other by-products for national marketing.

By collaborating with other organizations, and building on the successes of the Parade of Lights—the charity’s first fundraising event, a night excursion on the Missouri River in a tourism paddleboat decorated with lights—and the Prairie Pastry Festival, a community of non-profits can join in cooperative fundraising initiatives that reduce overhead costs and offer more direct funding to families in the surrounding community.

Personally, I’ve known the Jacobs family over four generations. The great grandfather, Walter, a WWII survivor of the “Battle of the Bulge,” wrote a weekly satire column for the community newspaper and made his own woodcut illustrations until technology came up with photocopying. He was known as a “riveting storyteller.” When the great grandparents learned of Ava’s cancer, they organized locally the first “chapter” of what has evolved into Bravehearts.

What impresses me the most about Bravehearts for Kids is how one family with social inventiveness and persistent advocacy over generations can produce new ways to create vital services for neighboring families in need in their communities.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 26, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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