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Frying up 20 years of memories

LEWIS Theres plenty of tales both fish and otherwise in regards to the annual fish fry in Lewis. This Sunday, the Wooden Nickel will host the 20th Annual Fish Fry. This year the event benefits the Elizabethtown and Lewis fire departments. Event organizers Ed Cross and Harvey Putnam, both original members of the informal group that organized the event, said the reason for the annual fish frys success was the sense of community fostered. Its a good community thing - a lot of people look forward to the dinner, to get together to see people they havent seen in a long time, said Cross. Its the 16th year the event has been hosted by Wooden Nickel owners Jim and Jean Olsen. The couple donates sausages, peppers and onions, serving up 40 pounds. The feature of the event is beer-battered, deep-fried ice fish. But, said Jim Olsen, theres something for every taste. Even people who dont like fish can still find plenty to choose from. Its not just fish. Its many, many other things - you could hate fish, and still come in here and have a good meal, said Jim Olsen. Covered dishes and desserts are donated by community members. One of the big successes is the community involvement people make all kinds of food, said Putnam. Cross said the fish fry started by local volunteers going out and fishing. We went out and caught fish, and we wanted to have a fish fry thats how it all started, said Cross. The original crew consisted of Putnam and Cross as well as Jeff Drummond, Sharon Anson, Steve Lewis, Ken Whittemore, Tim Supernaw and the Petit family. The event has always been held at its current location, previously known at J&G Rendezvous. When it started out, we just wanted to get together a group of people doing something for the community, said Putnam. Nowadays, it takes about 20 people to staff the event. Servers this year will be presented with a special 20-year commemorative T-shirt donated by the Wooden Nickel. Olsen estimated 400 people would attend the event. Cross said due to the lack of ice on Lake Champlain, smelt were difficult to come by this year. Beer-battered haddock will be on the menu instead 150 pounds of fish has been ordered. Inflation hasnt affected the meal. Twenty years ago, admission cost $5, and thats the same price that will be charged this year. The meal features all-you-can-eat food. Along with food, will include a live auction and raffles featuring $1,500 in cash prizes. Cross runs an auction with items and services donated by local individuals and businesses. He said there would be a couple hundreds items up for bid. The auction starts at 1 p.m. The first year drew in under $1,000 for its beneficiaries, but the event has grown by leaps and bounds. The fish fry tends to raise about $5,000 for its charity of choice. North Country Lifeflight, High Peaks Hospice, Elizabethtown-Lewis Emergency Squad and the Special Olympics of Clinton and Essex Counties have been past beneficiaries. Putnam said a different local charity is chosen annually, depending on the needs of the community.

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