By Sandra Culler
The Fish Fry was first started on the fourth Saturday of January 1994 by the Warren T. Parris Class. They had discussed various ways to help support the church and involve the community. Robert Culler was a student in the Air & Powerplant program at GTCC at the time. His class at GTCC had a fish fry for their group and Robert thought the Warren T. Parris class could do it with the assistance of some friends.
One of Robert’s classmates had been in business at a seafood restaurant and had knowledge and connections. He assisted for many years with his time, expertise and the use of some equipment. J & S Cafeteria, then located near Guilford College, allowed us to purchase the fish through their account. Carrie and Jimmy Lewallen purchased and donated the paper goods for the first event and supplied the delicious coleslaw, a tradition carried on by their daughter, Rita.
Members of Robert’s class, plus Vernon Auman and a few others cooked the fish the first year while the Warren T. Parris class members worked inside to put the food on the table. Colon Hurley and Emmit Bundy, members of the John Jay Blair Class, worked hard selling tickets. Mark Stroud purchased our famous hush puppy maker and we were in business.
Cooking fish on a large scale requires multiple fryers going at once, and the cooking smell is pervasive. After doing it one time in the open air, when the cooks nearly froze and breezes interfered with the gas burners, the second year the group put up temporary plywood walls on three sides of the picnic shelter. To keep grease from making the floor slippery, a layer of cardboard was taped down over the whole cooking area. For many years this heavy setup work was the special task of Buddy Carter and a group of friends he recruited to help him.
Max Rees was the minister the first year and helped to pack 200 carry-out plates. As time passed, we were greatly assisted by pastors Terry Venable, Ray Luther and most recently by Joshua Brown. The Pioneer Restaurant and Mike Liner often donated several large boxes of potatoes, which was very much appreciated. As years passed, and the Warren T. Parris class dwindled in numbers, many others joined in continuing the success of the dinner. Many projects have been assisted by funds raised by this event.
Despite the unpredictable weather of the season, we have only had to postpone the Fish Fry twice. One of the years was 2001 when Blake Culler was 3 weeks old. Because of the COVID epidemic, the Fish Fry had to be canceled in 2021 and 2022.
This year the Fish Fry is back, hopefully stronger and better than ever! Please join us on Saturday, January 28th from 4:30 to 7:00 pm. Cost of tickets is only $10 for adults, $5 for children (really little kids eat free). This year we will also be able to accept payment by credit card. You can eat in the dining room and enjoy the fellowship, or take out and enjoy your dinner at home. Either way, please ask your family, friends and neighbors to come and enjoy the Fish Fry!