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Ely Kiwanis: Evolution of blueberry pies

by Tom Kobierski, Ely Kiwanis Club

For years, the Ely Kiwanis Club has been serving up fresh blueberry pies at the Blueberry Art Festival and Harvest Moon Festival.

It has been an amazing collaboration between the club and two dedicated ladies, Gwen Bakken and JoEllyn Murphy, who were employed at Boundary Waters Care Center and Ely Bloomenson Community Hospital.

Over these years, Gwen and JoEllyn have volunteered their time and services to order, and do the preliminary pie preparation for the club fund-raisers. Club members step in to finish the preparation before Gwen and JoEllyn  complete the baking process.

The number of pies served over the last few years has exploded to total over 800 pies for the two festivals. The ladies always took personnel time off from work, and for their effort, they received a portion of the profits made on the sale of the pies. Those funds were then donated by them back to Boundary Waters Care Center for various unfunded improvements.

For years, Kiwanis has been facing the day when an alternative method would be needed to provide blueberry pies for  the very popular fundraising effort that provides so much support to so many of our local youth programs.

The hospital kitchen has been the only commercial kitchen in town that could handle such a huge undertaking. As eventually happens with long-term efforts, the inevitable has finally occurred - the kitchen used  for making pies locally is no longer available.

Now, here’s the good news. After a plenty of research, Kiwanians have found a pie they are pleased to serve to replace the old recipe.

Pies will now be baked at the Babbitt Zup’s store, be given the same Kiwanis personal touch, and delivered to the pavilion in a timely fashion. Slices of pie with ice cream will be available as usual. Whole pies can be purchased for home-baking. Additionally, root beer floats will replace the Zup’s BBQ sandwich.

Club members have also been brainstorming ideas to satisfy what seems to be the growing popularity of volunteerism prevalent in our community.

If anyone wants to try their hand at serving pie or ice cream for a few hours during the festival, club members are willing to train anyone on the spot and put them to work. It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun talking with festival-goers. If you are interested, contact

Ely Kiwanis budgets over $15,000 d to Ely youth and youth related programs each year. Programs include early childhood, athletics, arts, outdoor, education, family support,  health care, and community service.  $4,500 is donated annually in local scholarships.

This is a critical time for our fundraising effort, as we transition to this new phase and seek to maintain our high level of support for the youth of Ely. We hope we can count on your continued support to help us help kids in Ely. We think we have found the “right” pie and the “right” solution to maintain our high standards of “mmmnnn good tasting pie” that keeps festival-goers coming back year after year to say, “It’s not a Blueberry Festival until we have a piece of your pie.”

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