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Pizza season is back in Berne, bigger and better than before

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Wood-fired pizza at Zwingli United Church of Christ in Berne is one of the traditional treats of summer.
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BERNE — Every Wednesday evening in the summer, the Earth tilts toward the tiny hamlet of Berne, Minn., where hundreds of people converge for pizza and live music.

This phenomena, known as Berne Wood-Fired Pizza, begins its sixth year on Wednesday, with an expanded music lineup, a new specialty pizza, and an artisan fair.

"We're constantly looking for ways to have better and faster service," said Angela Organ, who coordinates the event for the Zwingli United Church of Christ. The church runs the pizza/concert event as a fundraiser, with proceeds going to the church and area charities and organizations.

The faster service mentioned by Organ has been a constant goal almost since Day One. Wait times for pizza have gradually been reduced, but can still reach an hour or longer on busy nights, Organ said. On the other hand, if you arrive early, the wait can be as little as 20 minutes.

"It comes with the territory of what kind of business we are," Organ said. "It's not fast food."

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One solution: "More hands on deck," she said. Already, about 60 volunteers are in place for each night.

Plus, the addition of a second music act to the lineup this year might help. "We're hoping that spreads out the wait time," Organ said. "Some people will come earlier. The music will be starting earlier."

The first band will play from 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., with the second band playing from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Pizza is available from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

On average, about 350 pizzas are sold each night in June, jumping up to 450 each night in July and August. "We know when we hit mid-July through mid-August, those are by far our busiest four weeks," Organ said.

There are seven varieties of pizza available each night, including a specialty pizza. June will see the debut of a new specialty pizza: bacon cheeseburger. July's special is bacon chicken ranch, followed by August's Swiss cheese and kraut. "That one is really, really popular," Organ said.

Meanwhile, Organ shot down a persistent rumor that the event regularly runs out of pizzas. "We've only ever sold out of pizzas four times in five years," she said.

Upcoming later this summer is the first Artisan Market Night, which will be held Aug. 2. Arts and crafts will be displayed and for sale throughout the grounds.

Zwingli United Church of Christ is located on Dodge County Highway 24, just east of Minnesota Highway 57.

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