Getting ready for the Fireworks Fish Fry

The Freedom Fireworks Fish Fry planned for March 29 is an annual event that takes a team effort. That team includes the Lonsdale Lions Club, pictured above. The dinner will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Lonsdale American Legion. Proceeds from the event support the July 3rd fireworks display. (News Review file photo)

If there’s one thing drawing folks outside the house on a Friday night out this time of year, it’s a fish fry. Whether an organization holds one to raise funds for a cause or a restaurant offers Lenten specials on the menu, the Lonsdale area isn’t short of options the next few Fridays.

A fish fry hosted by the Lonsdale Freedom Fireworks Committee attracts a crowd of 600 to 800 guests to the Lonsdale American Legion each year. This year’s fish fry runs from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 29.

Volunteers beyond the committee, including the Lonsdale Lions Club, Lonsdale SnoWizards, and volunteer firefighters have helped make the event possible ever since the Lonsdale Chamber stopped funding the local fireworks a few years ago.

Mackenthun’s Fine Foods supplies the packaged meal, which includes baked or fried fish, a baked potato, green beans, coleslaw, mac and cheese, bread and a cookie. Cost is $12 for adults, $6 for children 5 to 12 and free to children under 5. The Legion also offers take-out meals.

All proceeds from the event, include the raffle held at the Legion, go to pay for the Lonsdale fireworks show on July 3. This year’s fireworks will launch from Industrial Park for the second time.

“We really want the community to know this is the only fundraiser for the fireworks,” said Nicole Smith, head of the Lonsdale Freedom Fireworks Committee. “We don’t knock on businesses’ doors, so we really rely heavily on this fundraiser.”

For those unable to attend to attend the fish fry who want to contribute to the cause, Smith recommends donating to the Lonsdale Freedom Fireworks account at Frandsen Bank & Trust.

When it’s not serving as a venue for the Freedom Fireworks Fundraiser, the Lonsdale American Legion offers a couple fish specials during Lent: a 21 shrimp basket with tartar sauce or cocktail sauce and a fish sandwich with panko fish, lettuce and tartar sauce on Texas toast.

Also in Lonsdale, the Whistle Stop Tavern and Grill offers a fish special that includes a choice of potato, soup, salad, coleslaw, and a dessert.

Out of town

For those willing to venture a bit farther for fish, these options exist within a 20-mile radius of Lonsdale.

Ettlin’s Ranchero Supper Club in Webster’s fish special dates back to 1972 and lasts throughout the year, even when Lent is out of season. However, the supper club’s cod meal increases in popularity this time of year.

“Reservations are recommended, especially during Lent,” said Owner Heidi Ettlin. “We’re busy on Fridays as a general rule, but Fridays during Lent are extremely busy.”

The all-you-can-eat special includes deep fried cod, french fries, sides of coleslaw and cottage cheese, a choice of salad, and soup.

Ettlin can’t remember a time before her restaurant offered deep fried cod. That’s because her dad, the late Rudolph Ettlin, is the former owner who developed the recipe.

“It stays the same,” said Ettlin. “I’m one of those people [who believes], if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. [The fried cod special is] tried and true for us … We don’t want to mess with it if it’s working well.”

On the newer end of the spectrum, Firehouse Grille in Elko New Market has offered the same Lenten special since the business opened just five years ago. But age isn’t a popularity factor when it comes to fried fish.

“The last two Fridays have been very, very busy,” said General Manager Joe Kemnitz. “[The fish fries are] attracting a good crowd.”

Firehouse Grille offers a fish fry special every Friday during Lent, but for the rest of the year, Fridays mean all-you-can-eat ribs.

The all-you-can-eat beer battered cod special comes with a side of fries and coleslaw. It starts at 4 p.m.

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty.

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