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Originally published Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 2:57 PM

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National Pie Day brings crusty locals together in Ballard

Mary Schile celebrates National Pie Day with a fundraiser at the Salmon Bay Ballard Eagles; Shirts Across America raises money to send local high-schoolers to help in New Orleans, still rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.


Seattle Times staff columnist

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Lucky girl Mary Schilehas a birthday that just happens to coincide with National Pie Day.

So 13 years ago, she and friend Sara Bennettstarted hosting a Pie Party. Friends and family brought savory and sweet pies to Schile’s place, ate from a massive buffet, washed it down with beer and cocktails, and, once home, likely fell into a very deep and colorful slumber.

Over the years, the event grew so big that in 2009, Schile moved it to the Salmon Bay Eagles in Ballard, where she is a member.

And in honor of Bennett’s mother, who succumbed to ovarian cancer in 2008, they turned the event into a fundraiser for the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research. They raised $13,000 last year alone.

Local businesses have been generous with raffle donations: Bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam gave baskets of merch; steady-Eddie donors like Hattie’s Hat, The Tractor Tavern and Dave Meinert donated drinks and dinners. There were massages and pet boarding and tickets to Teatro ZinZanni. Even a registration to the Rock ’n’ Roll Seattle Marathon. All was gathered into themed baskets by “Pie Princesses” who happily manned the room in tiaras and cherry-print dresses.

Musical director Fredd Longo’s job is manning the live music — and keeping a “master list” of songs about pie.

Don McLean’s “American Pie.” D’Angelo’s “Devil’s Pie.” John Fogerty’s “Rhubarb Pie.”

“And, of course, ‘Pie in the Sky’ by Johnny Cash,” Longo told me.

The mind races. “Honey Pie” by The Beatles. Anything by Humble Pie — right?

Longo finds himself noting pie-related lyrics all the time. In “We Go Together” by George Jones and Tammy Wynette, he said, there’s this line: “We go together like ice cream and apple pie.”

“And there’s another song about putting children in pies,” he said.

Schile’s brow furrowed: “You mean like from ‘Sweeney Todd’?”

No, he said, “It was from a writer from the 1500s.” Then he paused.

“This is getting very grim.”

I walked down the long table covered in anything a crust could hold and manned by two “A La Mode Girls” ready to help with the plating and mode-ing.

This being Seattle, there was a gluten-free, vegan shepherd’s pie.

Emily Shetlermade a paleo pie: avocado blended with cocoa powder, coconut cream and vanilla. (“It was one of the first things to go,” she said. Not to brag).

But brag away, guitarist Ian Moore, who played earlier that night: “I made a weird pie. A samosa pie. Heck, yeah, I won for savory.”

Johnny Knowlden sauntered over to tell me about his pie, “Made with leftover donkey meat.”

Wait for it ...

“I call it my ‘Big Ass Pie.’ ”

The Family Friel — auction queen Sharon, her sidekick son Rick, drummer son Chris and daughter-in-law Kim Virant — helped with the raffle and the live music. Pie songs. Of course.

“Good friends and family,” Bennett said, surveying the room. “And with $4 beers at the Eagles bar? I mean, come on!”

Helping hard times in the Big Easy

Randy Novakwas only homeless for one day, when he was 18 and his family fell apart. “I’ve never been so scared in my life,” he recalled.

That memory is part of why he founded Shirts Across America (SAA), a nonprofit that sells T-shirts to raise money to send local high-schoolers to New Orleans over spring break. There, they help with the rebuilding that continues 10 long years after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast.

“We want to give people a place to put their head down again,” Novak said, “and feel secure.”

On Friday night at the Burke Museum, Shirts Across America held “A Toast to NOLA” to raise funds for the upcoming trip. An anonymous donor pledged $10,000 before anyone had even sat down for dinner. Lovely.

In his blessing before the meal, the Rev. John P. Whitney from St. Joseph Parish referred to the students as “shapers of homes, bearers of love and companions in the work of creation.” Lovelier still.

The event also honored Pastor Patrinell Wright, the founder of the Total Experience Gospel Choir, which has made several trips to the Gulf Coast, working and singing for those who need help and healing.

The choir, now in its 41st year, is raising money to travel to Tanzania. It’s been able to travel to five of the seven continents — but Wright draws the line at Antarctica.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she cracked, “where the birds dress better than I do.”

In receiving the Hall of Fame Award from SAA, Wright looked out at the students headed south this spring:

“Every nail that you hit, hit it with love,” she said. “And every tile that you lay, lay it with love.”

And to Denise Montalbano, who received help from SAA students and flew up for the event, Wright offered this reminder:

“God spared the main thing, and that’s life.”

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.



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