The sky was cloudless and clear. A strong gust pushed through the walls of the white tent and made attendees shutter. The leaves danced mid-air as the wind carried them and the smell of duck and dumplings drifted through the crowd.
It was only 10 minutes in, but a line had already formed at the entrance. People had come out for this year’s Duck and Pork Dinner at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Bruno on Sunday, Oct. 21.
The Rev. Ron Homes said event hosts expected 1,200 attendees at the church fundraiser this year. Homes leads mass both at St. Anthony’s and at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church located 4 miles away in Abie. Two weeks ago, the Abie church had its annual Duck and Ham Dinner with 70 fewer attendees than the previous years, which Homes attributed to the adverse weather.
“Abie had rain,” Homes said. “This one, because of the weather, we expect it to be bigger.”
Guests enjoyed a buffet style meal. Dishes included pork, dumplings, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, rolls and pie.
Homes said the dinner in Abie raised about $44,000. He said he and others hoped to raise $36,000 at the dinner in Bruno.
“If we didn’t have this money,” Homes said. “We don’t have enough money to pay all of our bills before the year is over. So the money really helps pay bills.”
Helena Ostry, 21, of Bruno, staffed the fundraiser's country store. The booth had various sweets like honey, salsa and homemade strudel for sale. But Ostry said the best goodies were her kolaches, a Czech pastry she made herself.
“It’s my Grandma's recipe,” Ostry said. “But it’s a secret.”
Anna Rerucha, 56, of Bruno, has been attending the St. Anthony’s for more than 20 years. This year, she ran the prize booth where kids could exchange tickets won at the event’s games for various toys.
“The boys like little ninja things and the girls prefer little-stuffed toys,” Rerucha said about the prizes.
If she ever had the opportunity at the dinner, Rerucha said she wanted to check out the silent auction as a few of the items caught her eye. The live auction featured items such as a football signed by Cornhusker coach Tom Osborne, a 50-inch flat screen TV and 200 gallons of propane.
Homes said the dinner attracts people from all over the area.
“They love the duck, they love small towns,” Homes said. “They love that everyone who is working here knows each other.”
Cheryl Mueller, 57, of Seward, said she has attended the dinner a couple of times. Her friend, Alan Policky, 60, of Bee, said he’s probably come to the dinner for the past 15 years.
“Don’t think I’ve ever missed one,” Policky said.
Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.