Kongsvinger Blends Food, Fellowship, Mingling And Music

LEFT TO RIGHT: Rich Derrick, Kevin Dean, Mark Diers, Mark McLaurin

RURAL GOD’S COUNTRY BETWEEN EAST GRAND FORKS AND OSLO – Years ago, a television advertising jingle proclaimed, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven, and Pillsbury says it best.”

I don’t know if these were Pillsbury or not, but from our vantage point at a round and red clothed table in the festive Fellowship Hall of Kongsvinger Lutheran Church, we first smelled and then witnessed pans of just baked dinner rolls comin’ from the oven.

Their aroma, combined with that of the main course which greeted us when we entered the vestibule, convinced us we had come to the right place.

And since I was famished, it’s no wonder a line from a hymn older than the Pillsbury Dough Boy, suddenly resurfaced and I sang to myself, “Tis good, Lord, to be here.”

We heard Kongsvinger was serving a Valentine dinner so that’s where Jim and I headed last Friday evening with good friends, Glenn and Sandra Bethke. But it wasn’t just the food that pulled us north toward Oslo. We went for a couple other reasons.

Kongsvinger served this dinner as a benefit for the Women’s Pregnancy Center of Grand Forks and we like to support them. Plus, our very own local Fallcreek Quartet was providing barbershop harmony entertainment.

In case you haven’t heard, Fallcreek was named Land O’ Lakes District No. 1 Quartet for 2016. That’s a huge honor as the district encompasses North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Fallcreek also recently did very well at a competition in San Antonio, Texas, where 25 other quartets from around the world performed.

More about Fallcreek in a minute, but first, let’s back up.

The four of us were seated at our table with new friends we’d had just made: Corene Vaughn, Cavalier, N.D., and James Aubuchon, Drayton, N.D.

Don Mathsen a member of Kongsvinger, warmly welcomed the nearly 80 diners of all ages. Then he introduced their pastor, the Rev. Chris Rosebrough, who began the evening with food not meant for the palate, but for the soul.

Because of what’s going on around us politically Pastor Rosebrough began, “The world is an awful place right now. Our country has a lack of love and everyone is at everybody’s throat. God loved us when we were least loveable and if we love people like that, things might turn around,” he added, referencing verses found in Romans 5.

Next came our delicious meal – a tossed salad, the still warm rolls and Penne pasta smothered in a Bouillabaisse Sauce spiced with fennel and topped with ribbons of white cheese.

It was so beyond scrumptious that we asked to speak with the head chef who turned out to be Barb Rosebrough, the pastor’s wife. Barb came from the kitchen to chat at our table and now we have another new friend.

Dessert was a brownie with warm chocolate sauce, slices of strawberries and dabs of whipped cream on the side. I should mention, this dinner bill was footed by Kongsvinger and those who wished to do so could make a contribution to the Women’s Pregnancy Center.

When everyone had laid down their forks, Don Mathsen introduced Jill Chandler, executive director of the Women’s Pregnancy Center. Jill spoke briefly on the center which has been serving the Greater Grand Forks area since 1996 with free, confidential pregnancy and sexual health services.

Then it was time for the wonderful harmonies of Fallcreek, a quartet that has been around for 20 years. I have known these guys forever, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen them in concert. Not only do they have a wonderful sound, they also clown around together in such a fun way.

Mark McLaurin, tenor, was quite sure that as of late, they’ve all gotten “handsomer.” I’m inclined to agree.

Other members are Kevin Dean, bass; Mark Diers, lead. And Rich Derrick, baritone.

Fallcreek sings country, gospel, old standards, doo-op, you name it. Their only instruments are their voices.

They started with “Come and Go With Me,” by the Del-Vikings. I heard finger snappin’ coming from back by the kitchen and turned to see several young guys keeping the beat.

Their repertoire consisted of Frank Sinatra’s “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” Gospel’s, “He’s Only a Prayer Away;” Elvis’ “Are You Lonesome Tonight;” The Platters, “Only You;” The Tokens, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight;” The Diamonds, “Little Darlin’;” The Lettermen’s “When I Fall in Love;” Roy Orbinson’s “Crying;” the all-time No. 1 song by the Overtones, “Sha-Boom,” plus “Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot, and ”My Wild Irish Rose.”

Interspersing song with cutting-up, Fallcreek kept us smilin’ for a solid hour. When they thought they were done, they received a standing ovation and came back to end with, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and a song made popular by the Turtles titled, “So Happy Together.”

It’s very evident that after 20 years, Fallcreek still is “So Happy Together.” As for us, we were “So Happy,” to be there.

We need more of these kinds of evenings in our world. Sure couldn’t hurt the showing of love Pastor Rosebrough spoke of.

Tip of the Hat: To Harvey and Donna Hoiberg who after 71 years of marriage continue on the road to forever together. Pastor Harvey, now in his 90s, served Kongsvinger for 17 years.

Until Soon