Chuckatuck VFD sets fish fry

Published 10:11 pm Monday, September 20, 2010

Fish fry: Volunteers serve food to more than 1,000 visitors during last year’s fall fish fry at the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department.

Times may have changed, but the semiannual fish fry events to benefit the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department have only gotten better with age.

The second of this year’s two cookouts will be held Saturday at the station from 4 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $9 in advance, $10 at the door.

“We’ve been doing this for at least 40 years,” said Vernon Gayle, president of the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department. “I can remember when we used to sell the dinners for $1.25 and they’d fry up all the fish in a pan. Something that hasn’t changed is that we still serve all you can eat. We give people a ton of food, and we receive a lot of support in return.”

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Gayle said the group has ordered 1,200 pounds of tilapia, 1,000 pounds of potatoes and 90 pounds of coleslaw to feed the expected crowd of 1,200 to 1,600.

“It’s a whole lot of work,” Gayle said.

But the volunteers are used to work.

Chuckatuck volunteers responded to 360 calls in 2009 and have already run more than 260 this year, according to Gayle.

“Everything from emergency service calls to structure fires,” Gayle said. “The number of structure fires we respond to has gone down over the years, but we get a lot of medical calls, because we have life support systems in our vehicles.”

Only 40 percent of the department’s $100,000 annual budget is covered by funds from the city, Gayle said.

“We have to come up with the rest, and that’s not including capital improvement expenses,” Gayle said. “Most of the money we raise from the fish fries goes to operating expenses, like fire hoses, equipment on the trucks, upkeep on the building, water and electric bills — we still have to pay those.”

Fundraising is a true community effort, though.

“There’s too much work for us to do this all by ourselves,” Gayle said. “There are about 55 of us who are there helping, but we get help from the Ruritans and other local clubs, churches and civic clubs.”

The effort starts with volunteers peeling potatoes the day before the event, followed by more volunteers cutting them to be cooked the next day.

“We’ll start cooking them at about 1 p.m. on Saturday, because it takes 45 minutes to cook a pot, and we can cook nine pots at a time,” Gayle said. “That fish doesn’t start getting cooked until 3 p.m. though, which is about when people will start to line up. When you get it, it’s still hot on your plate. I’ll tell you, it’s a good meal.”

To get tickets, visit Saunders Supply, Kelly’s Nursery, Kitty’s Beauty Salon, Farmers Feed and Seed, Bennett’s Creek Pharmacy, Chuckatuck Collectibles, Tidewater Motorcycles or Trophy World, or contact Aleck Winslow at 255-4549 or Vernon Gayle at 255-4572.