While many people use Lent as an opportunity to sacrifice some luxury or pleasure, they gain a new one in Monroe County with the advent of Friday fish fry season.
That begins today and runs until Lent ends in April.
There are dozens of fish fries throughout the county, and almost everyone has their favorite.
For Greg May, a Waterloo resident who goes to various fish fries each week during Lent, that is the fish fry put on by the Valmeyer Knights of Columbus.
“I just think the fish is better,” May said, noting he enjoys the convenience of fish fries.
Weeks of work goes into providing that convenience, according to Scott Roever, who helps coordinate the Valmeyer K of C fish fries with Amy Rohlfing, Dennis Kipping and Alex Riechmann.
“Getting prepared involves making sure the fryers are clean and ready to run, checking inventory and ordering food and supplies, getting the advertising going and then getting workers to sign up,” Roever explained. “Usually, work starts about six weeks before the fish fries start, but the real busy time is that week before, when we have to get everything set up and get the supplies in and staged.”
Along with St. John’s United Church of Christ in Valmeyer and the Valmeyer Jaycees, Roever said the Knights of Columbus gets its fish from a local food distributor.
It goes through about 2,000 pounds of fish, 900 pounds of potatoes and 150 loaves of bread in the six weeks of fish fry season.
Another particularly popular fish fry is the one hosted by the Waterloo VFW, which also starts getting ready about six weeks in advance.
VFW volunteer Stan Darter said it varies how much fish the organization uses, but they always keep enough on hand to fill multiple freezers and a trailer.
“We’ve been around such a long time, people are used to us,” Darter said. “They’re happy with the quick service they get. There’s been a lot of friendly faces in there for a long time.”
That is part of the reason rural Monroe County resident and fish fry fanatic John Doty loves going to the VFW.
Doty and his wife, who visit a different fish fry every week, have three sons who are members of the organization. They also visit the Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church fish fry.
“If we go to the VFW, it’s because a lot of times a couple of my sons who are members will go with us,” Doty said. “And I like to support the VFW. My wife is Catholic, so we support the Catholic causes, too. Plus, if we go to the Peter & Paul fish fry, we’re going to see a lot of people we know, and at the VFW it’s similar.”
By contrast, a new option on the 2020 fish fry circuit is the village of Hecker, which is hosting a special fish fry at the Hecker Community Center this Friday from 3-8 p.m. in honor of its quasquicentennial celebration.
Hecker Mayor Charlie Kujawski said the village held a fish fry for its centennial and wanted to bring the event back.
“We thought we’d give it a try,” he said. “Hecker doesn’t have as many fish fries going as it used to.”
That may be somewhere fish fry fan David Kennedy and his wife go, as they also attend fish fries weekly during Lent.
While their favorites are the ones hosted by the Waterloo VFW, Waterloo Sportsman’s Club and Ss. Peter & Paul, they enjoy supporting various causes.
“We support all the different organizations during that time because they’re providing a service for us,” Kennedy, a Waterloo resident, said. “We love cod fillets. That’s one of our favorite entrees. And we enjoy going out with our friends.”
People who want to do the same have numerous options.
The Waterloo VFW hosts its fish fries each Friday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for those ordering from the menu or getting carry-outs. It then offers cafeteria style and carry-out options from 3:30-8 p.m.
The VFW will host a dine-in buffet April 10 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Waterloo Sportsman’s Club has its fish fries beginning this Friday and happening every Friday through April 10. Serving takes place from 4-8:30 p.m., and credit cards are accepted.
On March 27, Ss. Peter & Paul Parish hosts its fish fry from 4:30-7:30 p.m. in the school gym.
In Valmeyer, the Knights of Columbus fish fries are March 20, March 27 and April 3. Those start at 4 p.m. and end at 8 p.m. Carry-out orders and a full bar are available.
“What makes our fish popular is how it is cut, breaded and fried,” Roever said. “And then with our sides, Amy has her own secret recipes she uses that make our homemade sides stand out, and she also does a great job of maintaining a consistent quality. Then we have all the homemade desserts that our parishioners bring in that are outstanding.”
St. John’s UCC has Valmeyer covered earlier in the season, with fish fries tonight and March 6 from 4-8 p.m.
In addition to normal fish fry offerings, Hecker will have a bar and special 125th anniversary souvenirs available this Friday.
Nearby, St. Michael’s Parish in Paderborn hosts a fish fry tonight only from 4-7 p.m.
And in Renault, Our Lady of Good Counsel will have a fish fry from 4-7:30 p.m. each Friday from this week until April 10. That event features a new expanded menu.