The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 27, 2014

Key ingredient for Montour DeLong Community Fair fish dinners? Volunteers

By Karen Blackledge
The Danville News

— WASHINGTONVILLE — Larry Randler was adding ingredients for Harvard beets.

Brian Helfrich was cooking green beans and later that night would be mopping floors. That morning, he had filled the kitchen with roasters in the Montour-DeLong Community Fair main building.

The preparations were for the popular all-you-can eat haddock dinners that benefit the nonprofit fair near Washingtonville.

The dinners resumed Saturday for this year.

Randler arrived at 6:30 a.m. and planned to be there until about 10 that night. A volunteer since the dinners started 10 years ago, he said this is the only time he cooks.

About an hour before the dinner, other volunteers Carl Buck, Fair Association Vice President Mark Buck and Barry Woodruff fried 850 pounds of fish in the French fry stand behind the kitchen of the main fair building.

That morning, about 15 volunteers had come in to cut and bread the fresh fish. The volunteers said they have their own secret recipe, which involves eggs and crackers.

“We usually make 10 to 12 roasters of beets, scalloped potatoes and beans,” Randler said.

Besides haddock, potatoes, beans and beets, they serve cole slaw, apple sauce, rolls, cakes, pies and drinks. The cost is $12 for adults and $6 for ages 12 and younger.

People have traveled to the family-style dinner from as far as Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport.

They also get a lot of people coming back for the dinners, held from 3 to 7 p.m. the fourth Saturday of the month except December, May, June, July and August. During the warmer months, the volunteers prepare for the fair held every August. December is just too busy with the holidays, they said.

Carl and Priscilla Buck have been fair volunteers for about 30 years and have been helping with the dinners since they started. “We’re here until the dinner is over,” Carl said. After that, they clean up.

Priscilla usually dishes out take-out dinners and helps “wherever they need me.” They had 150 take-outs during their last dinner in November.

Carl doesn’t cook at home. “I cook the three meals a day,” said Priscilla.

Fair Association Secretary Ruth Marr bakes desserts for the dinner and was setting tables Saturday for their first round of diners. “I serve and have taken tickets,” she said.

“This room gets full,” Priscilla said of the large main building where volunteers serve customers.

They serve all ages. “From the comments I have heard, everybody loves the fish,” Marr said.

A group of women usually bakes 65 pies the day before. Marr brought in four cakes and two pies. Other bakers include Phyllis Snyder and Donna Anstadt along with people from the community.

“We make at least 900 pieces of dessert. If we run out, we serve ice cream and we have run out,” said Marr, a fair association member since 2006.

June Kline has been volunteering to cut slices of pies and cakes the past six years. “I like to keep the fair going. I bring exhibits to the fair,” she said of her reasons for helping out.

She said the dinner “is very good and I get a lot of compliments from people who keep coming back.”

Roger Payne, a founding member of the fair association along with his wife, Esther, delivered a cake for the dinner.

“They’re wonderful. If you don’t get enough to eat, it’s your own fault,” Roger said. They planned to return later to eat.

It takes 30 to 35 volunteers to put on a dinner, said Mark Buck, no relation to Carl Buck.

Employees from Service 1st Federal Credit Union were among the servers. In November, Jersey Shore State Bank workers assisted. FNB Bank employees plan to help out at a dinner this year. “We’ve had 4-H come out,” Marr said. “Anyone wanting to help can give us a call at the fair office at 570-437-2178,” she said.

While volunteers said the all-you-eat aspect and take-outs are big draws, Carl Buck agreed the food brings out crowds along “with the good-looking waitresses.”

He and his wife keep coming back “for the good time with the people,” including volunteers and patrons.

Emil comments to kblackledge@thedanvillenews.com.