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FOOD AND FELLOWSHIP Stampede drivers, overnight fans appreciate annual breakfast

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Fans and participants of the annual Stock Car Stampede at Jamestown Speedway enjoy a free breakfast Saturday morning in the beer garden of the Stutsman County Fairgrounds. Photos by Tom LaVenture / The Sun2 / 3
Bob Welsh, left, of Jamestown First Assembly of God, serves pancakes to Caiden Halvorson, 7, of Crookston, Minn., Saturday morning in the beer garden of the Stutsman County Fairgrounds. The boy was attending a free breakfast for fans and drivers in the annual Stock Car Stampede at Jamestown Speedway.3 / 3

For 30 years of the 46-year-old annual Stock Car Stampede, a free breakfast has been offered on Saturday morning as a convenience for busy drivers and crews, said Keith Veil, breakfast sponsor and owner of Jamestown Speedway. It is also a chance for fans who camp overnight to meet with the drivers off the track, he said.

“It’s very good and we enjoy it,” said Eric Halvorson, Crookston, Minn., who brought his wife and twin sons Caiden and Nick, 7. “This is our first year.”

Aaron Blacklance, of Thief River Falls, Minn., said this was his second Stampede event and he enjoys waking up for breakfast after camping out.

“We appreciate it,” Blacklance said.

It was cold on Saturday but not as cold as the first breakfast at the Stampede in 1987, Veil said. There were fewer than 50 people then who showed up for pancakes served off of one griddle.

“We have served as many as 800 people at the breakfasts since then,” Veil said. “Through rain or when it was warm enough to show up in shorts and sleeveless shirts.”

Cyrus Liechty, a volunteer for the breakfast with Jamestown First Assembly of God, said this year’s breakfast started a little slow with the races lasting until midnight on Friday. Most people will come later in the morning, he said.

“People are sleeping in,” Liechty said.

The breakfast is a fellowship that goes with the spectator racing event, Liechty said. He and Veil are members of First Assembly and he said they both think of racing as a family sport that needs more social activity.

Veil called the breakfast a random act of kindness.

It shows people care without wanting anything in return, he said.

“Basically, the message is that God’s love is free and unconditional,” Veil said. “You can’t pay for it.”

The outpouring of appreciation is overwhelming sometimes which makes the breakfast more rewarding than a burden, he said.

There are around 25 volunteers for the breakfast, Veil said. The Rev. Jeff Wiedenmeyer, pastor of Jamestown First Assembly, said he and the church volunteers set up at 5:30 a.m. and start serving eggs, sausage, pancakes, donuts and coffee from 6:30 to 11 a.m.

“I like to hang out with the crowd and the race car drivers,” Wiedenmeyer said. “I’ve been a race fan for a long time and it’s just fun to be out there and rub shoulders with them.”

Veil said there have been volunteers from many other churches and the racing community over the years. It is the volunteers who bring the spirit of open hearts, he said.

“The best part of this is providing a place for people to do their ministry and to be kind to other people,” Veil said.

Andrea Mathison, youth pastor at First Assembly, said the breakfast is a good way to meet new people whether visitors or local community.

“I like to smile and greet them,” Mathison said. “I just love people.”

Bob Welsh of First Assembly said the event is a great opportunity to represent the community.

“It’s a way to serve,” Welsh said.

Carolyn Subart said she volunteers every year with First Assembly and that while it’s not easy crawling out of bed so early the event is well worth it.

“It’s a ministry outreach and we get to talk to people somewhat about what our faith is about and who God is to us,” Subart said.

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