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Lehigh Valley fastnacht tradition canceled again, but not for COVID

fastnachta-fat-tuesday
Haley O'Brien
/
WLVR
Fastnachts lined up in a row for Fat Tuesday.

TREXLERTOWN, Pa. — If you're eager to take a healthy bite of the fastnachts made annually by Good Will Fire Company No. 1 of Trexlertown, you'd best find another way to satisfy your craving.

Because of a shortage of volunteers — and, in large part, to the skyrocketing prices of ingredients, particularly of eggs — the fire company announced Friday on its Facebook page that has canceled its fastnacht sale for a third straight year.

  • Good Will Fire Company No. 1 in Trexlertown cancels its annual fastnacht making event
  • A lack of volunteers and rising prices of fastnacht ingredients, including skyrocketing egg prices, forced the decision
  • The fastnacht event raises upwards of $16,000 annually for the fire company

A Lehigh Valley tradition since 1965, the fire company's sale typically makes 3,000 dozen fastnachts. The heavy, fried, yeast-raised potato donuts are prepared for Fat Tuesday — Feb. 21 this year — before the start of the Lenten season many Christian denominations observe.
The event also was canceled in 2021 because of the outbreak of COVID-19. An outbreak of coronavirus variants in 2022 led to another cancellation.

The latest cancellation takes yet another huge bite out of the fire company’s fundraising efforts. The project raises upwards of $16,000 for the volunteer organization each year.

The shortage of volunteers severely affects the production of the fastnachts. The event requires 40 volunteers per six-hour shifts over the weekend prior to Fat Tuesday.

To make the fastnachts, the fire company uses 1,500 pounds of potatoes, 1,400 pounds of sugar, 3,200 pounds of flour, 700 pounds of lard, and 250 dozen eggs,

While the cost of those ingredients has risen in recent years, it's the cost of eggs that has hit hardest this year.

The cost of eggs has increased to a national average of $4.25 per dozen for Grade A large — the highest price since 1980, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Prices were up 60% in December, compared with the same time the year prior, according to the Consumer Price Index, Kendall Crawford of Harvest Public Media.

The reason for the high cost of eggs is attributed to an outbreak of Avian flu, a respiratory disease of birds caused by influenza A viruses, according to Maro Ibarburo of the Egg Industry Center, of Ames, Iowa, in an interview with NPR. The flu wave, one of the virus's deadliest outbreaks, contributed to the loss of 44 million laying hens in 2022, creating a reduction of the number of eggs produced and keeping egg prices high, according to Ibarburo.

When the Avian virus is detected in one chicken in a flock, federal law requires that all remaining birds in the flock be culled, or killed, to keep the highly pathogenic virus from spreading.

In March, one of the country’s biggest egg producers, Rembrandt Enterprises, had to cull a flock of more than 5 million hens. Major bird losses continued throughout last September, when eggs hit peak demand.

eggs.jpg
Phil Gianficaro
/
LehighValleyNews.com
A large supply of eggs is stored into the dairy case at Weis Markets on Schoenersville Road in Bethlehem. The rise in egg prices contributed to the Good Will Fire Co. No. 1 canceling their annual fastnacht making day.

At Weis Markets on Schoenersville Road in Bethlehem on Monday, a dozen large Eggland's Best was $4.39, and an 18-count package was $6.69. A dozen Weis-brand large eggs was $4.89, and an 18-count was $7.29.