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Fish Fry Friday has become a tradition for many as parishes across the Parkland hold their weekly fish dinners every Friday during Lent.

St. Joseph Catholic Church's fish fry is by far the largest in the area serving close to, if not more than, a thousand hungry people each Friday night.

Marge Dill took over this year's fish fry from Dolores Eddleman, who had been in charge for the past 13 years. Dill said the foundation put in place over the time Eddleman spent growing the dinner has helped to make the event such a success.

"For two years I've been coming in on Thursdays helping Delores and coming in on Friday to set up," Dill said. "You just kind of get involved, and when Delores said she was retiring somebody needed to step up. It felt like she was grooming me so I fell right into the position."

Eddleman said that after 13 years she is ready to pass on the responsibility, and at the age of 72 the job has gotten too hard on her.

"She'll do fine. The first one is always the hardest because you don't know if you've never done it," Eddleman said. "I had it easy, though, because I ran the cafeteria for 31 years so I knew how to organize and do all that. As the years went on we went from feeding 500-600 people and to over 1,000 a night. Several years ago we fed 1,200 one night."

One thing new this year is the addition of grilled cheese to the menu. As a grandmother, Dill said her grandchildren do not like fish and she wanted to add another option for the children coming to eat.

Dill said she was overly excited for the first night and while they almost ran out of catfish, the evening ended with success feeding around 1,120 people.

"The volunteers did our parish proud," Dill said. "This was tied for one of our second or third largest dinners. A big thank you to the community for all of their support."

Dill said the parish has tremendous support from the whole community ... not just the Catholic church.

"It's a lot of food passing through here in three hours," Dill said. "It is awesome. We have a team that comes in on Thursday's that makes 100 pounds of coleslaw, drinks and whatever. "

The fish fry is held every Friday for six weeks starting the first weekend of Lent and continues through the week before Good Friday.

If you're not a Catholic and have always wondered why members of that faith refrain from eating meat at certain times of the year, it's all because of a rule that binds all Catholics 14 years of age until death to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent.

And for those who wonder why fish isn't considered "meat," according to the Catholic Church fish does not hold the same status as the meat of mammals and birds, and so it may be eaten.

The event is open to the public with everybody welcome to come out and enjoy some fried fish with all the trimmings.

The cost for the all-you-can-eat fish fry supper is $9 for adults and $4 for children between the ages of 5 and 10. Children 4 and younger eat free. Carry outs are available.

The menu includes three fish options — catfish, tilapia and pollock — along with sides of hush puppies, coleslaw, green beans, stewed tomatoes, french fries, macaroni and cheese, the new addition of grilled cheese, and a specialty side each week.

The specialty items are: March 15 - corn on the cob; March 22 - fried okra; March 29 - bean casserole; April 5 - onion rings; and April 12 – shrimp. The meal also includes tea, coffee or lemonade, as well as homemade desserts prepared by Women of Mary.

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Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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