By SUSAN ERICSON
It’s time for the first seating in the dining tent at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, and the members of the all-volunteer fire department’s Auxiliary are once again organized and ready for the challenge.
It’s 6 p.m., and already there are more people in line for dinner than there are tables and seats. But they patiently wait their turn, some holding plastic cups of beer while chatting with neighbors, many with small children eager to hit the rides. A long line of baby strollers stands parked between the cashier and takeout window.
“You can’t not have a fried fish dinner,” Eileen O’Neill said as she brought her covered plate into the break room behind the dining room. A longtime volunteer, O’Neill moved away from Fair Haven a few years ago, and yet returned to work in the dining room, seating families for dinner.
Raquel Falotico, known to all as Rocky, said this is her 40th year volunteering for the fair, while Christina Schrank, one of this year’s co-chairs, said it’s her 32nd. All members of the Auxiliary, they work together like a well-oiled, experience-driven machine.
“The menu is basically the same as it was 20 years ago,” O’Neill said.
“Except that we added sausage, peppers, and onions about three years ago, and everyone seems to like that,” Falotico added.
The seafood-heavy menu consists of deep-fried fish, scallops, softshell crab – served as a sandwich or as a dinner – with your choice of fries or fried eggplant.
For the vegetarians, there’s corn on the cob and fried eggplant heroes. Landlubbers are treated to meatball subs.
Other perennials: clam chowder, clams on the half shell, and steamers. The steamers, at $15 a bucket, are usually the first thing the kitchen runs out of. A fried scallop dinner – tender, sweet and crunchy – will set you back $9.50, and a bowl of chowder is a bargain at $3.
“This fried fish is a treat. It’s not like it’s good for you,” O’Neill quipped.
Pitchers of beer show up on most of the long dining tables, clearly the beverage of choice to wash down all of that seafood.
Many fairgoers, waiting their turn to enjoy what is for most an annual culinary event, could not care less about the nutritional value of the meal. Some show up for dinner every night that the fair is open, and some stand in the takeout line to purchase a container of chowder to enjoy at home.
There are fancy layer cakes for dessert, too, though many diners leave room for cotton candy, ice cream cones and funnel cakes served in the out-back area of the fair.
If you want to attend this annual feast, you have until Saturday, so get in line or wait until next year.
In the redbankgreen archive: Check out our 2011 photo essay on the making of the fair’s clam chowder.