Oh, the fun you can have with rhubarbChar Juntunen is in the midst of a hectic two weeks of preparation for the 9th annual CHUM Rhubarb Festival.
Char Juntunen is in the midst of a hectic two weeks of preparation for the 9th annual CHUM Rhubarb Festival.
If she’s not hard at working chopping rhubarb and sticking pies into the oven at First Lutheran Church, she can probably be found on her phone, checking on the next shipment of rhubarb or coordinating supply donations from local businesses.
“Local businesses are invaluable for us,” said Juntunen, who has been involved with the festival from the start. “When I think of everything we’d have to go out and buy or have donated by individuals, which doesn’t always work out, I think our expenses would probably double.”
In addition to leading the baking crew at First Lutheran, Juntunen also works with the festival’s sponsors to ensure that everything runs smoothly before and during the festival.
The Rhubarb Festival, held this year from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at First Lutheran, is a major fundraiser for CHUM. Started in 2004, the festival features all things rhubarb — pies, juice, ice cream, bratwurst, burritos and more — to raise funds for the Duluth nonprofit.
There is no admission fee for the festival, which also includes live music, demonstrations and children’s activities. Proceeds from sales at booths help fund CHUM services including food shelves, emergency shelters, the drop-in center and employment- and housing advocacy.
Dozens of local businesses and organizations are involved in this year’s festival — providing cash donations, products and volunteer services. In addition, many of CHUM’s 38 affiliate congregations bake pies and offer volunteers for the festival.
“It brings the community together,” Juntunen said. “So many different companies and different churches get together and work hard and, by George, we’ll have upwards of 800 pies by Saturday morning. It’s really cool.”
Whole Foods Co-op has been a sponsor for all nine years of the event and has typically donated dry goods used for baking, as well as volunteering at the event.
“The co-op really is focused on creating a healthy community and a healthy local food movement, and the Rhubarb Festival really encapsulates both of those things about as best as you can,” said Jill Holmen, promotions and education coordinator at Whole Foods.
Holmen has volunteered at the festival in the past, and will again be at the Whole Foods booth. People are invited
to stop by the booth and take part in the rhubarb face contest for a small donation. Participants must take a bite of raw rhubarb and then have their picture taken. Voters will choose the best faces and prizes will be given.
“It’s always a phenomenal time,” Holmen said. “It brings out all walks of life for the day, which is fun to see.”
Another sponsor since the start, Twin Ports Paper and Supply, works with organizers to donate pie packages and compostable paper products for use at the festival.
It’s part of an ongoing relationship the bulk paper product distributor has with CHUM and other local hunger organizations. The Duluth Airpark-based business also routinely volunteers truck drivers to pick up donations for the Northern Lakes Food Bank.
“As a locally owned business, it’s extremely important for us to give back to the community,” said Tim Maddy, director of operations for the company. “CHUM is an excellent organization.”
Even some local nonprofits find ways to donate to the festival. On the grounds of the Glensheen Mansion, rhubarb is grown and donated for use at the festival.
Dan Hartman, interim director of Glensheen, said the estate’s entire vegetable garden is donated to the food bank every year.
“It’s for a great cause and they can definitely use it,” Hartman said. “We don’t have any direct connection, but it’s one nonprofit helping another, which is great.”
The general sponsors for this year’s festival are KDLH-TV, First Lutheran Church, Minnesota Public Radio, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery and Whole Foods Co-op.
Other sponsors and supporters are Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, KUMD, Security Jewelers, Super One Foods, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Twin Ports Paper & Supply, United Way of Greater Duluth Volunteer Center, Bernick’s Pepsi, Cash Wise Liquor, Duluth Coffee Company, Duluth Running Company, Essentia Foundation, Franklin Foods, JS Printing, Kohl’s, Lamar Advertising and Waste Management.
Additionally, hundreds of people from CHUM’s congregations and other organizations contribute in various ways, according to organizers.
“Last year at First Lutheran alone, I think there were close to 100 people who volunteered in the kitchen,” Juntunen said. “Many came in all four days. A lot of hours were put in.”
It’s not too late to help out. If you are interested in volunteering before or during the festival, contact CHUM at (218)720-6521.