LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On the first Friday of Lent, hundreds of cars lined up outside churches in the Louisville area for the season’s first fish fries.
At St. Michael Catholic Church, in the years before COVID-19 hit, there were be tables and people packing the gymnasium, enjoying fish and fellowship. Just a year ago, that’s what area fish fries looked like. Churches got about three or four weeks of Friday fish fries in during 2020 before everything shut down.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the Friday tradition was different this year.
“Compared to a year ago, that’s kind of when COVID hit and everything got shut down like three fish fries into it,” Amanda Long, St. Michael’s Fish Fry Co-chair, said. “So, we don’t have the dine-in like last year, years prior. So that’s a little different. I think everyone was excited to have a sense of community again.”
As churches plan for carry out only, Long said St. Michael’s came up with a plan to offer both drive-thru and online ordering options.
“They can go online and place their order and we have spots for the online ordering pickup,” Long said. “Drive-thru is ones who haven’t placed the order, so they don’t have to have a pre-order. They just drive through our little drive-thru. We take the orders, it sends it into the printer, and they fill the order and carry it out.”
The church has become a kind of restaurant for a few weeks during Lent.
“It is it is,” Long said. “For seven, eight weeks out of the year we become our own little restaurant.”
As hundreds of orders of fish were tossed in and out of the fryer, 20-30 volunteers outside continued to take, pack, and deliver orders.
“They’ve got great fish,” Amber Hildebrand, who was in the drive-thru line Friday, told WAVE 3 News.
She said she has been going to fish fries at St. Michael’s for years.
“You know I’m used to my kids running around with their friends and getting to talk to everybody and I do miss that,” she said. “But I’m glad they are still offering the fish.”
Jim Moss kept the door open for volunteers running in and out of the building at the church, picking up orders for delivery to cars.
“I’ve done about every job there is here,” he told WAVE 3 News. “[I’ve been volunteering] since the mid-90s.”
For the past several years, Moss volunteered as a greeter.
“I would greet people coming in and as they left but this year there’s no one to greet so I’m just opening the door for the runners. They seem to appreciate it,” he said.
Long said they took more than 800 orders by 6:30 p.m. Friday night and had to go pick up more fish to fry throughout the dinner rush.
Eventually, their online ordering system broke, and tickets were not being printed, contributing to delays. Long said they’re working on fixing the problem by next week to avoid any further delays.
Fish fries are big fundraisers for churches across the area. With COVID-19 cancelling other fundraisers throughout the year, Long said this is the first time they’ve been able to do something that feels normal.
“It’s important for the parish, it’s important for us,” she said. “We’re so used to getting in here and volunteering and trying to be that community. Everybody’s excited to get back and get going again, to volunteer and to help.”
Customers said they are grateful for a sense of normalcy during this pandemic.
“I’m really glad they are able to do it,” Hildebrand said. “It raises a lot of money for the church. So, I’m glad they are able to accommodate anyway they can to raise that money.”
Most churches will have fish fries every Friday until Good Friday on April 2. For a list of Fish Fry locations in Louisville, click here.