Annandale Advocate

Club has fish to fry in fire hall

By Chuck Sterling Editor

The South Haven Sportsmen's Club Fish Fry will be held for the 73rd year in a row after all despite the fact its home for all those years has been shut down.   Club members decided at a meeting Friday night, Jan. 7, to move the event to the fire hall down the street from the South Haven City Hall, which has been closed as a safety precaution, rather than cancel it.   The fish fry has been held in the city hall basement on the first Friday in April every year since 1938, and it may be the longest continuously running annual fish fry in Central Minnesota, if not the state.   But the city locked up the 77-year-old building in September after it was declared potentially unsafe because of structural flaws, and the club considered canceling if it couldn't find another place.   "It's all set to go there now," treasurer Jack Sunderland said after the meeting.   Members decided to buy cooking equipment to replace stoves they've used for years in the city hall and "to go ahead and have it in the fire hall" on Friday, April 1, he said.   "It's real good news," Sunderland said. "It works out good for everybody - us, the fire department and especially for the town, because it does draw a lot of business in."   Though the club had considered sites in other towns, members decided at a meeting in December that the fish fry, if it were held, would stay in South Haven, he said.   The event, promoted as "the granddaddy" of fish fries, attracts more than 1,000 people to town, and the club wanted to keep its consecutive-year streak alive.   Sunderland said he planned to order the new equipment as well as the fish early this week.   He estimated they'll need to buy six deep fryers at a cost of up to $4,600, five roasters costing about $250 and about $150 worth of pipes to supply gas to the fryers.   The club makes only about $2,500 on the fish fry, but Sunderland said it may have to use the fire hall again next year if a new community building isn't ready, so it's better to buy the equipment now.   And it might need the fryers and roasters in the new building anyway.   Keeping the event in South Haven also saves "what would've been a small fortune on advertising" if it had been moved, he said.   The fire department, which plans to move its May smelt fry from the city hall to the fire hall, has indicated it might contribute toward buying the deep fryers, Sunderland said.   Club members will have a big job learning to set up in a different building, he said, but firefighters will work with them the first time.   "It's very workable," he said of the fire hall. "It's just getting everything set up. We're ready for it."   Fire chief Oscar Laney told the South Haven City Council at its Tuesday, Jan. 4, meeting that the department supported the club's request to use the fire hall.   Mayor John Lemke agreed. "Frankly, I think it'd be a shame not to have it, or move it out of town," he said. As long as the fire department approves, "I'm 100 percent for it."   The council also passed a blanket authorization for the Sportsmen's Club and other groups to use the fire hall for meetings and special events with the fire department's approval.

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