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Church Diner Serves Up Last Meals At Fair

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) -- After 46 years of service, Epiphany Catholic Church Monday will serve its last meal at the Minnesota State Fair, and members of the church and fairgoers alike are sad to see the end.

"It's really starting to sink in (that) this is our last year," said Father Dennis Zehren.

The Coon Rapids church would've needed to give up five years of profit to take care of repairs and new appliances, according to Zehren. Staffing the dining hall is a majority of Epiphany's overhead at the fair.

"It takes 70 volunteers to run the diner for 12 days in a row," said Zehren. "We have to buy a ticket for every volunteer. We have to hire a bus service to get volunteers out here to the fair every day."

A couple blocks away on the fairgrounds, Hamline Church pushes on with its dining hall.

"We're pretty excited this is out 114th year of continuous service here at the State Fair," said volunteer Elaine Christiansen.

Volunteers are only about one mile from the church, which is off Snelling Avenue, making it easier and less expensive to get them to the fairgrounds. Some of the volunteers aren't even members. Ken Sandvik says the people at the dining hall are friendly and special.

"They treat me like a long-time member of the Hamline family," said Sandvik.

Volunteers like Ken are needed at Hamline to keep the hall open. Some say fewer people are the fair want a sit down meal, and more are demanding foods on a stick.

Christiansen says the food at the Hamline Dining Hall is, "home-cooked. It's not the fast food that the fair has become popular for."

Hamline will continue to lean on its volunteers for support. Back at Epiphany, the decision has been made.

"A lot of our patrons have been coming here for years since we opened in 1966, so we're grateful for their patronage and we hope to see them again down the road," said Zehren.

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