by Paul Rignell
The Elk River American Legion increased its order from a smelt supplier for a second annual smelt fry dinner May 28, but the bounty still was not enough as guests who arrived late in the third hour found those fryers to be empty.
After seasoning and serving 200 pounds of smelt in 2012, the members of Post 112 expected many of those guests would return for more in 2013, along with several friends. More than 350 ate dinner at last year’s smelt fry, and, indeed, this year’s event drew more than 500 guests to enjoy every last bit of the smelt that totaled 400 pounds.
A choice of smelt or the Legion’s popular Alaskan pollock (which is served three Fridays per month, year-round) was served with either a baked potato or red potatoes. Post Commander Mike Beyer said the kitchen crew prepared and served 250 pounds of the spuds, along with 18 gallons of coleslaw and 20 gallons of baked beans. After 3 1/2 hours, there were hardly any leftovers of any type to be found.
The Legion will go “double again” for the smelt in 2014, Beyer said. “We’ve got to make sure the community knows that.”
When the public comes back for the third annual dinner, they will likely have the option once more of ending their meal with a sweet treat of either a sundae or root beer float, which the Post women’s auxiliary served for an extra cost.
Proceeds from the smelt fry and other regular events help fund youth and children’s activities, July 4 festivities and other sponsored programs.
For next year, event organizers hope that the warmer weather of spring will reach the Lake Superior region faster, so that those suppliers (including Elk River’s contractor in Ashland, Wis.) can make the smelt available earlier.
A delay in supply led the Post to push back its smelt fry by two weeks, to a night that happened to follow Memorial Day, another active day for the veterans.
“Memorial Day was a long day as well,” Beyer said. “It made it a long weekend.