Champion baker Marianne Carlson to share stories at Historical Society meeting

Marianne Carlson, the Jefferson baker who has won Iowa State Fair championships with her cinnamon rolls, pies, cakes, cookies and more, will talk about “how I get ready for the fair” at a Greene County Historical Society program on Friday, Sept. 4, at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Cedar Township.

The 1 pm program at the historic church, located five miles west of Churdan, is free and open to the public. There’s also a lunch for $8 at noon at the church, and reservations for the meal should be made by Wednesday, Sept. 2, with the Historical Society’s community contacts, or by phoning 515-360-8046.

Carlson says she started baking as a young girl, learning from her late mother Mary Coon. She often entered baked goods as 4H projects in the Greene County Fair and Iowa State Fair. After marriage and motherhood, she perfected her recipes. “Since I had seven kids, I always did a lot of baking, and people would say that my cinnamon rolls were really good,” she said. But she had not competed in baking competitions until 2003, when Tone’s Spices announced its sponsorship of the annual State Fair cinnamon roll contest, with a top prize of $3,000.

No, Carlson did not win the big prize her first year. “In fact, in 2003, my rolls hit the ‘Table of Shame’,” she said, mentioning the nickname of the table where the judges’ rejects are taken. “But I stayed there to watch the whole contest then, and learned a lot about what these competitions are really like, and what’s important to the judges.”

In 2004, she came back and won the Tone’s cinnamon roll contest, then she won it again in 2006. In 2005, her cinnamon rolls won the contest at the Clay County Fair in Spencer.

Many people encouraged Carlson over the years to open her own bake shop in Jefferson, “and I was tempted to try that,” she said. “But I was working fulltime as a nurse” in public health at Greene County Medical Center, “and I really never had the time it would take. I was tempted again after I retired, but then I thought that if I had my own shop, I’d probably spend so much time at it that I wouldn’t enjoy retirement.”

The Historical Society program at St. Patrick will give people another opportunity to see the outstanding renovation that’s been done recently by the members of the St. Patrick historic church committee. That group maintains the church now that it is no longer an active Catholic parish. Earlier in August, they had a weekend-long celebration of the church building’s 100th anniversary.

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