Revamped Fish Days draws crowds to lakefront

Organizers call return of festival a success despite snags that included a shortage of fish and chips

Orders of Fish Days' signature fare — fish and chips — were being sold by the boxful Saturday as members of the organizations that staffed the food and beverage stands worked hard to keep up with the demand. The clubs, which tried unsuccessfully to order more fish, ran out of food at about 6 p.m. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington’s Fish Days drew a crowd to the city’s lakefront last week, and organizers said they were happy with the turnout, noting that after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic no one was entirely sure how it would go.

“I think it was very successful,” Fish Day Committee Chairman Toni Brown said, noting that many of the changes incorporated into the festival this year were favorably received. “I think after two years off, we came back the best we could despite the economy and everything else happening in the world.

“You had your hiccups but I think overall it went as well as any of us expected.”

The crowds, she said, were more than expected, particularly on Friday night — the first time Fish Day has been held on Friday and Saturday.

“Friday night was really good and Saturday it was packed pretty much all day,” Brown said.

This year’s fest was held on a significantly smaller grounds than usual, something Brown said was generally well received, and a shorter parade route.

“It made it easier to reduce the gaps,” she said, adding the parade was only about 10 units shorter than in the past. 

The biggest hiccup, she said, was the fact that the service clubs ran out of fish and chips about 6 p.m. Saturday.

The clubs, which operated the food and beverage stands, sold more than 7,000 servings of fish and fries before they ran out of food, Dave Mueller, spokesman for the civic organizations, said.

When supplies ran low, he said, they ran out to Plier’s Full Circle, which serves the same variety of fish and fries as the club did on Fish Day, and bought another four cases of food, Mueller said.

“That appeased everyone for five to seven minutes,” he said.

“We hated to disappoint people.”

Mueller said the clubs ordered 200 cases of fish from US Foods, an amount based on how much was sold at Fishtival — which last year took the place of Fish Day — as well as estimates of how many people might attend the festival, but only received 195 cases.

They tried unsuccessfully to increase their order by 40 more cases the week before Fish Days, Mueller said.

If they had been able to get the additional cases, he said, “we would have been pretty close (to meeting demand).”

While they could have ordered a different type of fish to supplement the supply, they chose not to do that because they wanted people to have a consistent experience throughout the day, Mueller added.

Long lines were also an issue at times, particularly after the parade. Mueller noted that the clubs were prepared for the post-parade rush, but they expected the parade to be a little longer than it was.

“We only had 16 fryers and we were going as fast as we could during peak times,” Mueller said.

Mueller said he heard many comments from people asking for a separate beverage line, and the clubs will consider that for next year. But, he added, they are limited by the number of volunteers they have to staff lines and tents.

But, Mueller said, the day was a successful one for the service organizations, which are expected to net roughly $10,000 each for their work.

That money is then invested in the community by the clubs in the form of projects and scholarships.

While there may have been some disappointments, Mueller said those attending Fish Days were happy the festival was back.

“So many people came up and said thank you for bringing it back,” he said. “The important thing was the event was back and people got to be together in the park, enjoying the day and each other.”

Brown said the Fish Days Committee will soon begin planning next year’s event, and noted they are always looking for volunteers and ideas.

“Obviously there will be tweaks next year,” she said, adding it’s too early to say what those will be.

Mueller said one thing to consider may be additional activities for youngsters and a non-alcoholic teen night on Thursday night.

“We do want to make this more of a family thing,” he said. “There’s not a lot for 14 to 20-year-olds.”

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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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