Fish fry forges community bond once more
DEVILS LAKE - Instead of a thin sheet of ice and a couple of nets entrenched on opposite ends of the rink, several rows of dining tables lined the concrete floor at Quentin Burdick Sports Arena.
Meanwhile, hundreds of hungry Devils Lake residents packed the outside entrance.
The opposite end of the building showed a different scene as scores of walleyes and endless corn on the cobs were being prepared for the upcoming evening meal.
This, of course, was the entire game plan outlined in the preparation of the 16th Annual Community Fish Fry and Corn Feed on Aug. 26.
The food serving, which took place right as the clock struck 5:00 p.m., was not only an opportunity to provide a hearty meal but to raise awareness for the Lake Region Anglers Association (LRAA). The LRAA was founded in 1975 to enhance fisheries, raise awareness and expand local angling opportunities in the region.
“It is an incredible opportunity for the Lake Region Anglers and all of our members to give back to the community that supports the use of phenomenal resources we have in Devils Lake,” LRAA President Johnnie Candle said.
Paula Vistad, Executive Director of the Devils Lake Chamber of Commerce, has helped organize the event for eight years. Since she has donned the apron and helped serve the food, Vistad has constantly noticed the slew of people who would make their way out to the event. In Vistad’s time, the event has grown so popular that the venue has had to change from the smaller confines of Bill Jerome Arena to the larger spaces of Burdick.
Through the years, the event’s turnout has been anything from as low as 350 to as large as 750-800. In Vistad’s opinion, the more, the merrier. After all, more people showing up means additional recognition to the LRAA.
“The fish, through a lot of the tournaments held throughout the year, is provided through the Lake Region Anglers Association,” Vistad said. “The Chamber has one tournament held in June every year…the Lake Region Anglers cleans in the tournament for us. The fish that is donated back is through this. We give a lot of credit back to the Lake Region Anglers Association and the work they do. We are happy to partner with them.”
From cleaning the fish to collecting them, the event is not only the culmination of weeks upon weeks of lake fishing labor but a collective thanks to the community. After COVID-19 canceled last year’s fish fry, the event’s return was a way to bring the community back together once more.
However, the return of the fish fry was business as usual for the Devils Lake High School Football Team. The team helps shuck the corn for the event every year.
Todd Lambrecht, head football coach for the Firebirds, believes the event only strengthens the bond between the football team and the town it calls home.
“It is camaraderie,” Lambrecht said. “We get together, do something and help out the community. They have asked us pretty much every year to help shuck the corn, and we enjoy doing it. The guys have fun doing it, it does not take very long and it helps out the community, so it is great for everybody.”
From Vistad’s perspective, the event has always been about community outreach as much as LRAA recognition. To Candle, the event also provides an opportunity for the younger generation to step up and continue with the annual tradition for years to come.
“It is our thank you to the community, and we are saying this is a thank you to you,” Vistad said. “We are having this for you and to say here we are as the Chamber of Commerce and Lake Region Anglers Association. For the community. For them. For all they do. It is our way of saying thank you for stepping up.”
“Getting everybody involved is a big part of the Lake Region Anglers Association, and hopefully, a lot of people come to the fish fry, see what we can do and maybe even consider being part of the Lake Region Anglers Association in the future,” Candle said.