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‘Cookie Walk’ in Portage had something for everyone

December 3, 2018
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Anne Kleist and her grandsons Camron Lindert, center, and Jayce Lindert take their first cookies at the Portage Area Chamber of Commerce during the "Cookie Walk" Saturday in downtown Portage.

Sometimes popularity gets measured in cookie crumbs.

Jennifer Peterson and her daughter, Caitlyn, and grandson, Dillon Nelson, had already made six downtown stops in about 20 minutes for the Portage Cookie Walk early Saturday morning — all three of them in search of their favorites and not one of them shy about sampling the sugary treats along the way.

“Anything but nuts,” Dillon said of his loot to that point — his quest aided by a map of 19 participating businesses.

“Anything homemade,” Caitlyn said — and then her mom informed them she would sneak a sugar cookie out from one of their boxes, when the time was right.

“I didn’t buy a box for myself because I’d eat them all,” she said.

Homemade biscotti cookies at Wilz Hometown Pharmacy were among the treats Anne Kleist and her grandchildren, Jayce and Camron Lindert, looked forward to the most as they participated in the Cookie Walk for the second straight year.

“Only some of these will last until we get home,” Peterson said as the trio loaded frosted sugar cookies into boxes they’d just purchased from the Portage Area Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber sold 110 of 150 available cookie boxes prior to Saturday’s event, Executive Director Marianne Hanson said. Interest in the Cookie Walk has grown each year since it started with only 50 boxes available 18 years ago, and the chamber made 25 extra for 2018 compared to last year, she added.

“The Cookie Walk is so popular we get calls about it before Thanksgiving,” Hanson said.

Many participants reserved their boxes on the Monday after Thanksgiving, the earliest they could, Hanson noted, but people often call the chamber well before then just to find out the day the boxes would become available for purchase.

“They really don’t want to miss it,” Hanson explained. “It’s such a great family event, you see parents with their kids, grandparents with their kids, and it gets people into their local businesses.”

Kleist said the Cookie Walk reminded her how The Mercantile, for example, “has so many things you don’t normally see for sale,” including an old “Whee-lo” she once owned as a child. (The handheld “Whee-lo” propels a plastic wheel along a metal track using magnets.) Kleist looked forward to seeing what else she might find Saturday.

Liz Gregory, who has operated “Functional Pottery” at The Mercantile for 13 years, said her favorite part of the Cookie Walk is interacting with the children who participate.

“I mean, seeing the kids come in here and their looks of excitement, that’s the best part,” Gregory said. “It’s the little things that make it fun. We just had a young girl who requested the exact same cookie for her twin sister who’s at home, sick. She said she’s bringing it home for her.”

Ryan Grotzke of Zombyte Repairs and his girlfriend, Jenny Amacher, baked almost twice as many cookies as last year, anticipating Saturday’s bigger crowds. They made four varieties of cookies – including a very popular double-chocolate mint cookie — and they enlisted Grotzke’s mother and sister for their boosted baking efforts.

“There are so many people from the community participating already,” Amacher said within the half-hour of the Cookie Walk.

Cindy Polnow, owner of Fancy Pants and Smart Woman, handed out her homemade ginger snap cookies, a recipe passed from her grandmother.

“It’s yummy,” Polnow said of the ginger snaps, which were quite similar in flavor, and perhaps identical, to molasses cookies, she noted. ”It’s an old-fashioned recipe — everybody knows ginger snaps.

“The kids seem certainly seem to enjoy them.”

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