By Nicole Hennessy
Members of the Avon Lake Boat Club hurried around the dining room at Beachpark Towers Feb. 10, setting tables covered in red table cloths with heart-shapes and preparing the night’s entree — fried perch.
If you ask one of the volunteers how many years the club has put on this event, you’ll get varied answers: “a long time” or “forever.”
Ray Frank, who serves as the club’s commodore, estimates the dinner, which traditionally falls on the Friday closest to Valentines Day, went with the estimation, “A long time.”
“It might have been the late 80s or early 90s,” Frank said.
As the last-minute preparations were made Friday, residents impatiently waited in the hall for the doors to open at 6 p.m., more and more people crowding in by the minute.
“Years ago, when this first started, the residents would donate the fish,” said Frank. The donations would come from residents’ personal stash of fish they caught out on the lake.
Eventually, this became problematic and the club decided to start purchasing the fish.
Frank acknowledges the expense, which is taken care of through a portion of the members’ annual fees, but he says everyone looks forward to the dinner. Most of all, the residents.
Avon Lake City Council President Martin O’Donnell and his wife, Holly O’Donnell, arrived just as the residents were rushing the tables, anxiously saving seats for their friends.
O’Donnell said he’s attended the event for the past two years.
“I think it’s a great organization, so we try to support them,” said O’Donnell.
O’Donnell also mentioned that with the boat club’s lease still being negotiated, he thought it was important for someone from the city to be present.
The city has leased the property to the boat club at Veterans Memorial Park for $1 annually since the 1940s, when WWII veterans started the club.
Now it looks like the city of Avon Lake will charge the boat club $100,000 in rent over the next decade.
Frank, too, mentioned the pending agreement, saying little more than that the details were being sorted out.
Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka, who could not attend the event, said he’s been working closely with the club on the lease and is
“very optimistic” legislation will be presented to council soon.
“They make a great contribution to the community,” said Zilka, regarding the club’s outreach initiatives, mentioning the fish dinner and their work with the city’s annual Hooks for Hunger event.
“They’re very good at providing some opportunities to interact with the residents and make life better here.”
With tables full, the kitchen crew Friday never broke a sweat. Joking among themselves, they served the food they’d been cooking all day proudly.
“What better way than to put this on free-of-charge for the seniors here to help them celebrate Valentine’s Day,” said Frank.
Tags: Avon Lake
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