Greenwood F.D.'s Friday Fish Fries feed faithful fans
Greenwood Fire Department Chief Al Curtis gestured toward a group of people eating at a table.
“They’re our groupies,” he said with a smile. “They follow us everywhere.”
Last Friday was the 10th “Friday Fish Fry” the GFD has put on this summer season.
The first nine took place in Greenwood. Last week they hit the road in response to an invitation by Golden Mountain Outfitters of Norway to cook for a tent sale outside the business. And the Greenwood faithful hit the road with them.
Curtis got the idea for a regular food fundraiser last winter from another fire department that has given them support in other ways in recent years - the Greenwood, Delaware F.D.
The larger Delaware department has donated tools, turnout gear and a fire truck to the Maine firefighters.
The Delaware F.D. also puts on regular chicken bar-be-ques in the summer to raise money.
Curtis and his department decided to have a go at it, with fish the main offering.
“We wanted to try to raise money in other ways than taxation,” he said.
But a funny thing happened as they planned for the summer.
“There were so many people asking for it that we started in the [Jackson-Silver] Legion Hall in April,” Curtis said.
The menu, in addition to fish, included French fries, cole slaw, and for those who are not fish lovers, chicken.
Come May they moved the dinner to the Greenwood Fire Station.
Their cooking philosophy: “Keep it good, and keep the portions big,” said Curtis. The cost: $10 a plate.
The fries run from 3 to 6 p.m., generally on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.
Why start so early?
They originally started at 4 p.m., he said, until they discovered a time conflict.
“We got complaints from the ladies who go to Bingo at the Legion Hall at 4 p.m. on Fridays,” he said.
So they started at 3, and the Bingo-goers could pick up fish to go and be at the Legion Hall in time to claim their favorite seat, said Curtis.
Through the summer the GFD has been averaging about 140 people.
“In the last three [dinners] before Labor Day, we cooked 75 pounds of haddock each night,” said Curtis.
The average profit has been $400 to $500 per week.
The FD initially put some of the earnings toward new tables and cooking equipment.
Next they plan to buy a medical device that can measure the carbon dioxide levels in the blood of firefighters and/or residents at a structure fire.
It would be used, for instance, after a firefighter wearing self-contained breathing apparatus entered a burning building for a time.
As the summer went on the GFD’s following included people not only from Greenwood but from Bethel, Woodstock and other surrounding towns.
The clientele also included other emergency responders - ambulance crews, law enforcement and other firefighters.
And when the GFD set up operations in Norway last Friday, PACE paramedics from the area came to eat, too.
So did many Greenwood residents. They all lined up for plates overflowing with fish and fries.
Among them were Harry Orcutt and Susan Vacca.
"The Fish Fries have been a highlight of the summer," Vacca said later. "The food is excellent, the portions are very generous and the atmosphere is fun and friendly. It's a great way to enjoy a fabulous meal while supporting a dedicated group. We're looking forward to many more fish fries in the future."
The fries are not yet over for this season.
There will be one at the Fire Station this Friday and another on Oct. 12, when they will be serving up their now-famous fare at Mt. Abram’s Oktoberfest.
Then they’ll begin planning for a new phase - winter Fish Fries at the Legion Hall, probably monthly on Saturdays or Sundays.
And Curtis is already dreaming bigger for next summer.
“We’re looking at doing them every Friday,” he said. “We appreciate all the support we’ve gotten.”