COLUMBIA — At the Knights of Columbus Hall, something smells fishy. That could be from the more than 1,000 pounds of fish volunteers are prepping and frying up.
Friday marks the first of two annual fish fry dinners held during the Lenten season that the Knights of Columbus put on at its building at 2525 N. Stadium Drive. The second fish fry dinner will be held March 16.
- Friday's fish fry dinner runs from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
- Admission to the all-you-can-eat dinner is $9 for adults and $4 for children ages five to 10. Children under five eat for free.
- Meals also are available for carry-out for people who can't eat on site.
- The next fish fry will be March 16.
Proceeds from the fish fry dinners will go to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri's Buddy Pack program. The Knights of Columbus is also accepting child-friendly food donations and financial contributions for the buddy packs. Attendees also can drop off their contributions through the drive-thru.
Volunteer Bobby Pezold came to the hall at 8 a.m. Friday and doesn’t plan on leaving until 10:30 or 11 p.m. He’ll spend the day in the “fry shack,” where he’ll cut up and bread the 1,280 pounds of fish purchased for the fry.
Nearly 100 volunteers expect to serve an estimated 1,100 attendees during the three-hour dinner.
Pezold has volunteered at the fish fry dinner since he joined the Knights of Columbus in 1995. “I like all of the people I work with and seeing people come through the doors who I wouldn’t normally see,” he said.
In addition to fish, which is available either fried or baked, meals will include green beans, cheesy potatoes, applesauce, coleslaw and dozens of homemade desserts.
“We have the sweetest, most warm and wonderful cornbread you’ve ever had,” event organizer John Sullivan said. “People come up into the lines for seconds and thirds just because of the cornbread.”
Sullivan, and his wife, Suzanne, have been organizing the event for 18 years. They work together to pull off the event, but also have individual tasks. John focuses on advertising and signs, while Suzanne, who works as a kitchen manager at Paxton Keeley Elementary School, focuses on the food.
Suzanne Sullivan also was a wedding planner for 15 years.
“I don’t do that anymore, but to me it’s kind of the same thing,” she said. “Everyone has their role here.”
After a pre-fish fry planning meeting which occurs after the first of the year, team captains are selected to head up different areas of the event. Captains lead each team of volunteers to ensure each member follows procedure.
“The goal is quality food, no matter what area,” John Sullivan said.
The Knights of Columbus is an international fraternal organization of Catholic men who serve their local communities by aiding church, community, youth and family programs. The Ladies Auxiliary is the female partner of the group.
The Columbia chapter has been holding fish fry dinners for about 30 years.
“Although it’s fun and intense, people really feel like they’re involved,” Suzanne Sullivan said. “I love seeing our workers come together in the fraternity atmosphere. And we have the opportunity to show the public what we’re all about and that we’re a fraternal organization that serves the community.”