Powassan Fish Fry returns

·4 min read

The Powassan Lions' Club Fish Fry is back after a two-year absence. COVID-19 sidelined the popular event in 2020 and 2021 because of lockdowns. Club secretary Sue Oshell said people who have attended the fish fry in the past are excited about its return. She also noted Powassan has seen the arrival of some new residents since the pandemic began and she hopes “they will also come down and experience the event.” The fish fry is the Lions' Club’s largest annual event. Oshell says there have been years when the fish fry has served nearly 350 people. Given the shutdown the last two years, she believes area residents have been itching for a return of the fish dinner. The fish fry takes place June 15 at the Powassan and Area Curling Club from 5 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 each. That gets the buyer two pickerel fillets, a baked potato, baked beans, a slice of pie, tea and coffee. The food is served buffet style. There will be 30 to 40 Lions' volunteers on the night of the fish fry. The pickerel will be fried in two large frying pans on two barbecues in front of the curling club. Runners will run the fried fish back indoors to the serving area. Lions' members will staff a cash bar and members of Powassan Minor Hockey will be washing dishes.

In return, the Lions provide a donation to the hockey organization. Oshell says there are no advance ticket sales to the event. They can only be bought at the curling club the night of the fry. Depending on the time of evening and how large the crowd is, there could be a wait for the fried fish, but she says it's a short delay. The potatoes and beans are baked at the local Valu-mart and then taken to the curling club. Valu-mart is also sourcing the pickerel and Oshell says in anticipation of a large turnout the grocery store has ordered enough fish to serve 350 people. Depending on the number of people and after expenses, Oshell says the Lions can clear anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000. “We're now looking for a project to put that money towards,” she said. The municipal pool, which the Lions built years ago, is in need of some work and Oshell said applying the fish fry proceeds toward a pool-related project is a possibility. The Lions are also in the last year of an overall $25,000 contribution to the North Bay Regional Health Centre with $5,000 left remaining on that commitment. Some of the proceeds may be part of the hospital contribution. Oshell said since this is the first time the fish fry is back in a post-COVID environment, the Lions will prepare meals to go in the event people don't want to sit at the tables in the curling club. “But they still have to come to the curling club, pay for their ticket and pick up their meal,” Oshell said. “Otherwise that's not going to be fair to someone who's been waiting in line.” Masks are not mandatory but Oshell said people can still wear a mask if they like and the Lions will make every effort to have social distancing in place. The fish fry is an event that's been going on in Powassan for about 75 years and it's seen many changes over that time. Oshell was told it first started when the Lions' was open to men only. It began at the cottage of a Lions' member overlooking Lake Nipissing. “But back then it was more of a stag where the guys played cards and that kind of thing,” Oshell said. As the event grew it moved to the Lighthouse Lodge on Lake Nipissing and was then at Camp Tillicum for a couple of years before moving to the curling club 30 years ago. Over that time, membership to the Lions expanded to include women. The Lions always used the fish fry as a fundraiser and the amount of money the organization was able to raise grew when it became a public event. The decades also saw a big change in how the pickerel was sourced. “In those early days the Lions members caught and filleted the fish themselves from Lake Nipissing,” Oshell said. “And I remember going with my dad to catch and fillet the fish. Then we'd freeze them and thaw them for the fish fry.” During the evening the Lions will also start selling tickets for people to win either a hand-made Selki kayak, a Giesler boat replica or a Muskoka chair which Lions members routinely make and sell. The band Blackbird Trio from North Bay will also be on hand to provide musical entertainment.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget

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