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Annual fish fry patrons pour in

by Deborah Horn Special to The Commercial | October 30, 2021 at 3:22 a.m.
Barbara Dunn, a volunteer for the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Farmers Appreciation Fish Fry, works Thursday to keep up with the demand for King Kat catfish. (Special to The Commercial)

By 4:30 p.m. Thursday, cars and trucks were lined up along Blake Street in Pine Bluff waiting for the official 5 p.m. start of the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce's 69th annual Farmers Appreciation Fish Fry.

As with last year, it was a drive-thru event at Hestand Stadium.

For a little more than two hours, Chamber volunteers and caterers were slammed, with orders going out to the next waiting vehicle as soon as the dinner containers were filled.

That's because they sold 535 tickets to the Chamber's annual fundraiser, said Jennifer Kline, the Chamber's events and marketing manager.

"It was a steady stream and didn't slow down" until about 6:25 p.m., Kline said.

The chamber had 24 corporate sponsors for this event. That's more than last year, Kline said.

Even though they had to wait until almost the last hour to set up for the fish fry due to a light rain, Kline said, "It was such a great day for our event."

Overall, ticket holders and volunteers were pleased with how well-organized the event was, she said.

Tickets were $20, and King Kat of Carlisle catered the event, offering fish or chicken tenders along with all the traditional Southern fixings.

"We've been working to make sure the dinner is seen as a community event, and to be more inclusive," Chamber Director Ulanda Arnett said.

The agency undertook a public campaign in which they invited Jefferson County residents to the dinner.

"We were happy to see new people that have not participated in the past. We considered the event a success," Arnett said.

FARMING TRADITIONS

Although they weren't able to offer their usual sit-down-style dinner filled with friendship, fun and ceremony, Kline said, they were able to honor the Arkansas Farm Bureau's 2021 Jefferson County Farm Family of the Year, Stefan and Lynn Draper of S&L Farms. The Draper family raises chickens for Tyson Foods.

A second reason for the dinner, Kline said, is to recognize Jefferson County's agricultural businesses.

"A large portion of our economy is made up of this industry, and the dinner is designed to celebrate them and thank them for what they do," Kline said.

It gives farmers a chance to meet bankers, suppliers, industry leaders and other producers.

A BRIGHTER 2022

The Chamber decided to cancel the sit-down part of the meal because of the rising case numbers of covid-19's delta variant, Kline said, "We decided to host a drive-thru like last year."

But they hope that isn't the case in 2022 and that the pandemic is just a memory by then.

"It's important to keep traditions like this alive, especially after a year and a half of quarantining and masking. People are ready to get out and enjoy themselves. People love getting together," Kline said.

And at the 70th annual fish fry, they hope to do it up big.

"In the past, we've had the Budweiser Clydesdales, and we hope to do something special next year," Kline said.

The Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce presents a plaque of appreciation to the 2021 Jefferson County Farm Family of the Year. Participants were Chamber member Mark Dutton, left; Farm Family honorees, Stefan and Lynn Draper, center; Chamber Director Ulanda Arnett; and Chamber member Chad Pittillo, right. (Special to The Commercial)
The Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce presents a plaque of appreciation to the 2021 Jefferson County Farm Family of the Year. Participants were Chamber member Mark Dutton, left; Farm Family honorees, Stefan and Lynn Draper, center; Chamber Director Ulanda Arnett; and Chamber member Chad Pittillo, right. (Special to The Commercial)

Print Headline: Annual fish fry patrons pour in

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