One fish fry really cooking, another takes a break

St. John XXIII Catholic Parish’s St. Peter’s Lenten fundraiser continues to feed the masses but St. Mary’s Campus suspends dinners this year

ST. JOHN XXIII MEN’S SOCIETY member Adam Lanser loaded trays with fish during the group’s first fish fry of the season on Feb. 16. The society served about about 650 dinners that night. There are two more fish fries on the society’s calendar, on March 2 and 16. Photo by Sam Arendt
Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Ozaukee Press staff

It’s Lent, and for area Catholics — and the general public — that means it’s fish fry season.

But this year, there are fewer options in Port Washington. St. John XXIII Catholic School’s St. Mary’s Campus is not offering fish fries this year, but those offered by the parish men’s society at St. Peter’s Church are continuing.

The two organizations had run fish fries on alternating weeks during Lent in the past, creating a tradition for many area families.

The St. Mary’s fish fries are being suspended this year as the Home and School Association reviews its fundraising efforts, Principal Kristine Klein said.

Steve Hansen, who has helped with those fish fries for the past 18 years, said one reason for the hiatus is that the Port Washington-Saukville School District is using the school’s kitchens to prepare student meals this year while construction continues at Port High.

That means the freezer and refrigerator space aren’t available for the fish fries, he said.

St. Mary’s typically held three to four fish fries, he said, with a typical crowd of 550 to 650 people.

“It was a good turnout, and they were a lot of fun to work,” Hansen said. “It was a good fundraiser for the school, one you could count on.”

At St. Peter’s, the men’s society is continuing its traditional fish fries, renting a freezer to help store its supplies. Its first dinner was held Feb. 16, drawing a crowd of about 650 people.

That’s a little less than the fish fries usually draw, men’s society treasurer Bob Dreier said.

“There were just too many other things going on last week.” Dreier said. “We’ll make up for it next week.”

The fish fries have been a parish tradition for decades. Dreier said they’ve been going on as long as he remembers.

“When we first started out, all we had was perch and cod, fries and baked potatoes,” he said. But suggestions from society members and the public prompted the group to expand its offerings to potato pancakes, shrimp, clam chowder and desserts.

And as the offerings grew, so too did the crowd, Dreier said, from 300 to 600 and then to the current average of about 800 people.

The highest turnout at a fish fry was 999, society member Mike Keller said.

“Had I realized that, I would have bought another ticket so we’d have been able to say we hit 1,000,” he said.

The fish fries are popular with the public, so much so that for the past two years the society has been supplying dinners to the Harbor Club, Keller said. 

Last year, the senior living facility purchased about 80 fish fries at two of the society’s three fries, Keller said. This year, they’re hoping to buy about 100 meals at each of the three fish fries.

“We try to have their meals out the door by 4:30 p.m.,” Keller said. That allows the society to prepare for the regular fish fry, which is set to open at 5 p.m.

But the doors often open earlier, he said.

“There are always people waiting,” Keller said. “They start lining up about 4:30 p.m.”

Dreier noted that it takes about 75 volunteers to run the fish fries, and each dinner brings in about $900.

After Fish Day, the fish fries are the society’s biggest fundraiser, Keller said, adding the profits are used to support the parish’s Boy Scout troops and community projects.

But there’s more to the fish fries than just money, he said.

“There’s more to it than just profit. It’s a tradition,” Keller said. “It’s a social thing too. People linger until we turn the lights out and fold up the tables.”

The remaining men’s society fish fries will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. March 2 and 16.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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