Fish dinners begin a week earlier to coincide with Lent

NEW MATAMORAS – The sounds of laughter mixed with the sizzle of the deep fryers at New Matamoras VFW Post 6387 as community members gathered for the post’s second fish fry of the year Friday.

The dinners began a week earlier, an early start to the fish fry season, which coincides with Lent and includes meals across the county.

“It’s more of a get-together than just eating. We really like the company and just seeing the community,” said New Matamoras resident Mazie Dunn.

Dunn’s husband, Ralph, a charter member of Post 6387, held up his warm slice of homemade apple pie in cheeky disagreement.

Some of the Dunn’s relatives from Sistersville, W.Va., also made the trip Friday night. The food and the company make the event well worth the 45-minute drive, said Blaine Smith.

“Plus I don’t have to cook,” he added.

The fish fries are a big fundraiser for the post, which is hoping to construct a new building soon.

“At least a bigger kitchen,” joked post member Carl Trapp, who was taking money and helping in the kitchen. The post averaged 80 to 100 people Friday night, said post member Don Lutes.

“The community supports us greatly and we do a lot of community activities in turn,” said Lutes.

Though the post’s fish fry is not timed to directly coincide with Lent, it is one of several area fish fries that take place during the Lenten Season.

The St. Mary Catholic School’s all-you-can-eat Lenten Fish Fry Fridays will begin Friday and will last six weeks, said organizer Cathy Rauch.

“We’re ready. We’re awaiting a big crowd and we’ve got lots of fish,” said Rauch, who has been helping with the event for 11 years.

The St. Mary fish fry typically draws between 700 and 800 attendees a night, she said.

The group goes through 1,000 pounds of fish, 175 pounds of french fries, 120 pounds of coleslaw, 50 gallons of green beans and 20 gallons of applesauce in a single night, she said.

“It has become a huge event in the Marietta community. People enjoy it very much,” Rauch said.

It is no surprise then that it takes a whole lot of volunteers to make the event happen.

The event starts with a Monday crew which unloads and stocks the fish, a Thursday crew who makes sure the fish are properly thawed, a Friday morning set-up crew and a 50-person team to handle the event itself, said Rauch.

Still, all the hard work is worth it because it benefits the school, she said.

“All of our children have attended St. Mary and I’m a teacher there now. This is just one way of helping out the school,” Rauch said.

In Marietta, VFW Post 5108 hosted around 110 people at a fish fry Friday evening. The post holds fish fries every second and fourth Friday of the month throughout the year, said post Quartermaster Ronnie Davis.

“We won’t have any more than that during Lent because we want the churches to benefit,” he said.

For its culinary offering, the post cooks up Alaskan pollock in a batter brought in from Kentucky, as well as french fries, coleslaw, baked beans and rolls, said Wilda Horton, a member of the post’s ladies auxiliary and post cook.

The money made from the fish fries helps fund activities that honor veterans and their families, said Davis.