Minto, N.D., community booster keeps town lively

Minto community booster Chris Misialek, owner of the Harvey Ave. Saloon, reviews his calendar for events at the Minto Community Center Thursday. Misialek, has been scheduling, organizing and carrying out events in the community for the past four decades. At right is his longtime bartender, Ginny Gerszewski. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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MINTO, N.D. -- Chris Misialek keeps the book for the entire Minto community.

The date book that is.

The longtime resident is the scheduler, organizer and often the person in charge of Minto Community Center events in the Walsh County town of about 600 located 31 miles northwest of Grand Forks.

“I run the show,” Misialek said. “I do all of the bookings for it.”

This month’s community center signature event was the 34th annual Bologna Cook-Off, founded by Misialek in 1986. This year 82 cooks braved the Jan. 17 winter storm to compete in the contest sponsored by Misialek’s business, the Harvey Avenue Saloon. Proceeds from the cook-off are distributed to charities.


Misialek is known as the go-to guy for fundraising, said Ginny Gerszewski, who has worked at Harvey Avenue Saloon for 32 years.

“He’s No. 1. He'll tell you how to do it, how much to make,” Gerszewski said.

Most of the public events Misialek helps with are held at the Minto Community Center. Between those and private events held at the center, more than half of the January dates in the spiral bound book in which Misialek keeps track of scheduling were full.

“It’s our busiest time, in the winter, for having events,” Misialek said.””We thought when we built this place, we’d be busy. We didn’t know we’d be this busy.

“If you don’t book it about nine months ahead, you probably won’t get the date,” Misialek said.

When the community center is busy, Misialek also is busy.

“One way or another, I’m involved in all of it,” he said.


Besides Misialek’s involvement in fundraising activities, he also is a member of several community boards and organizations, including the Walsh County Historical Society board.

“I’ve been on the museum board since I was 21,” Misialek said.

Meanwhile, he hosts events at the Harvey Avenue Saloon, including salsa, chili and rib contests, and once, a fundraiser for the bar’s ailing popcorn machine.

“I like to do things that aren’t really normal,” Misialek said, with a laugh. Though he smiles when he talks about some of the non-traditional fundraisers he's dreamed up, Misialek serious about helping those in need and has been known to turn his successful fundraisers over to others. For example, for several years, Harvey Avenue Saloon hosted a soup supper on April 15, the deadline for filing income taxes. Now a local daycare hosts the fundraiser.

One of the biggest events Misialek organized was in June 2013 when the Minto community cooked 2,240 pounds of chili, an amount that broke the previous Guinness World Record by more than 1,000 pounds.

Misialek doesn't stand by and simply watch the fundraisers after he organizes them, Gerszewski said.

"He’s always selling tickets for somebody., making food for somebody,” she said.

Misialek sees his volunteer work as a way to give back to his hometown and help keep it vibrant.


“I like being involved in the community,” he said. "They’ve been really good to me. I just try to keep the community alive. "

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