Marie Haggerty of Windber was out early Tuesday to vote at the Windber Community Building on Graham Avenue – and to ensure she would have first crack at delectable baked goods.

Her choices included cinnamon rolls for her children, ages 8 and 15, and bite-size cinnamon nuggets for herself.

Many voters lined up twice Tuesday: Once to cast a ballot and a second time to buy homemade soups and baked goods.

The practice has become an election-day tradition for nonprofits throughout Cambria and Somerset counties.

It’s not that Haggerty, a Windber Medical Center nurse, is reluctant to bake.

“I have to go home and bake a cake for my church, which is having an election-day turkey dinner,” she said. Haggerty is a member of Calvary United Methodist Church in Windber.

In Sidman, Dave and Debbie Gage were fortunate to have placed an order for homemade chicken noodle soup from the Sidman United Methodist Church before it sold out.

The thick, white noodles floating among sliced carrots and green broth were testament to the heartiness of the soup.

Nearly 60 quarts were sold out in just three hours after the polls opened at 7 a.m.

The church also had prepared 140 quarts – 35 gallons – of vegetable soup. Congregants were confident they would be sold before the polls closed at 8 p.m.

Helen Thomas of St. Michael, and a member of the church for more than 50 years, said the soups are a big attraction.

“We have had many people come into buy soup who say: ‘We might as well vote while we’re here,’ ” Thomas said.

The Gages bought a quart each of chicken noodle and vegetable. When asked which one he would enjoy Tuesday, Mr. Gage replied, “Both. One for lunch and the other for dinner.”

For 30-plus years, members of Cresson Presbyterian Church have been hosting a chili and soup dinner.

A steady stream of voters, borough workers, senior citizens and business people took advantage of the luncheon in the church basement.

A variety of sandwiches and hot dogs were offered.

“Most people pick out their desserts first before they sit down,” said Tim Harris of Cresson, chairman of the lunch. “We can raise about $650 at each luncheon and that goes into the church fund.”

After about three years of sellout sales, the church decided to go to serving lunches on election day.

“When we have a presidential, governor or heated school board races, we have great crowds,” said Cathy Vargo, a church spokeswoman.

She said people often timed their vote to take advantage of the lunchtime meals.

“There have been times we were so busy we had to ask people to get up to allow others to sit down. It is a social event as well.”

It’s also a good bargain. For ham and bean soup, vegetable beef soup or chili, the price is $1 for a small bowl and $1.50 for a large portion.

Egg salad or ham salad sandwiches were $1 as were hot dogs.

Jim and Claudia Kolar of Cresson have been regulars. Mrs. Kolar said she cannot remember missing a lunch in the last 30 years.

“This is a good reward for voting,” Mr. Kolar said. “We time our vote as close as we can to the 11 a.m. opening for lunch.”

Harris said they have one resident who brings in containers and takes a gallon of each soup home.

“That’s after she enjoys a sit-down meal here,” he said.

Because the church is central to polling places in the borough and Cresson Township, the meal attracts patrons from both sites.

“We sometimes have the election workers who are manning the polls give us a call to bring them a takeout order,” Vargo said.

From homemade pies and gobs to fudge and pumpkin logs, people would be hard-pressed to find a tastier election-day bake sale than the one at Wesleyan Holiness Academy in Portage Township.

Linda Jackson of Blue Knob and several women and students from the academy, which houses the Portage Township Southwest Precinct, were tending to the business of selling the goodies to hungry voters.

“We have people who vote in other areas and come here to buy baked goods,” said Jackson, a school secretary. “The most difficult decision voters have to make here is whether they want an apple or cherry pie.”

Township residents Bob and Barb Yetsko stopped by the bake sale before returning to their family farm.

“These items sell themselves,” said Yetsko, as his wife picked up a number of baked goods. “She is a dessert freak.”

His wife took exception to that.

“Don’t let him fool you, he eats it too,” Mrs. Yetsko said with a laugh.

Some candidates may be expressing sour grapes Tuesday, but voters were enjoying a sauerkraut dinner at Trinity Lutheran Church at 600 Ash St. in Johnstown.

Joyce Plaza, a member of Trinity Lutheran, said a lack of volunteers has resulted in a buffet luncheon.

“Normally, we serve dinners family-style,” Plaza said. “But many of our volunteers are getting older, making it more difficult to hop from table to table serving food and cleaning up.”

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