Monticello Rotarians getting ready for March 7 fish fry

Freshly fried fish will be the tasty attraction when one of Monticello’s most popular community service events returns to Pinewood Elementary School Friday, March 7.

The Monticello Rotary Club is getting ready for its 37th annual fish fry from 4:30 to 7 p.m. “We’ve done the fish fry on the first Friday of March for years,” said Ron Carlson, Rotary event chairman and lead organizer.

“We know other organizations do similar events, but they’ve steered clear of that date, and it helps, because the proceeds from this event benefit community service projects.”

Carlson is celebrating his 40th year as a member of the Monticello Rotary Club this year.

“If you buy a ticket, you’re going to get all the fish you want to eat,” Carlson said, adding that the meal will include potatoes, salad, coffee, milk and water and plenty of deserts. “We’ve always had cod, but last year, we went to a little different fish,” he said.

For years, Monticello Rotary served baked potatoes at its fish fry, Carlson said.“It really got to be too much of a hassle to bake that many potatoes, so last year, we made a change and went to a scalloped type of potato.”

This year, event organizers are planning to serve 1,100 people. “I tell people we can serve that many people in 2 1/2 hours and they don’t believe it,” Carlson said. “They say there’s no way that’s possible, but I tell them to come down, because there is a way.”

That way, according to Carlson, involves a high level of organization that’s remains a trademark of the Monticello Rotary Club. Members come together and get the work done.

“We started out at the Monticello American Legion,” Carlson said. “We were there for about five or six years, but when we started getting more than 200 people, we couldn’t seat everybody. People were waiting too long in line, and that didn’t work too well at the beginning of March. So, we looked at something different.”

Former Monticello Community Education Director Duane Gates suggested that the club consider one of the school districts’ gyms as a possible new location.“He checked into using Pinewood Elementary School, and we’ve been there at least 15 years,” Carlson said, giving credit to fellow Rotarian and electrician Warren Olson for his annual, major contribution to the fish fry event – making sure the deep fryers are correctly connected to electrical power at Pinewood.

“That’s a big job. We run three big fish fryers right together, and they draw a lot of juice. We have to bring a big cable into the kitchen and run it out to the main panel of the school and readjust the circuit breakers,”Carlson said. “Providing a service like that is valuable, because nobody in our club would have that knowledge.”

Carlson also credited fellow Rotarians Marianna Khauv, co-owner of Monticello’s Best Western Chelsea Inn and Suites and Chin Yuen restaurant, and Kevin Bame, chef and owner of A Catered Event, located in Big Lake, for the role they play with fish fry food ordering and logistics prior to the event.

Khauv said earlier this week via email that a premium pollock fillet will be served at this year’s Monticello Rotary fish fry. “Reinhart Food Service in Rogers is our supplier,” she said. “They deliver to Pinewood Elementary the morning of the fish fry. We order about 500 pounds of fish, roughly about 50 cases at 10 pounds per case.”

Khauv said Olson spends about four or five hours the Thursday night prior to the fish fry to hooking up fryers at the school.
“He stores the fryers in his garages just for this annual event,” she said. “He also spends another hour or two on Friday afternoon working to get the fryers ready for Jay Morrell  and Bill Demeules to fry, our dedicated chefs.”

Khauv said Morrell and Demeules fry fish from the beginning of the event to the end and always stay for clean up.
“They are real gems,” she said. “Warren also stays till the end of the fish fry to unhook the fryers and dismantle everything and put away the fryers. He’s a rock star!”

Khauv said the Monticello Rotary fish fry an event that allows her to contribute her knowledge and experience to a longstanding service club that has done a lot to better the communities locally and globally.

“I am fortunate to work with a group of great local business owners, professionals and community leaders that understand the importance of volunteering and making a difference in our community,” she said.

Khauv has been a Monticello Rotarian since 1994.

Shortly after she joined Rotary, Barb Schweintek, former Monticello-Big Lake Hospital administrator, recruited Khauv to be a part of the fish fry kitchen crew.

“According to Jay Morell, I was too clumsy to deep fry the fish, so they put me in charge of ordering everything that we need for the event.  The last three years, I have been very lucky to have Kevin’s help to share that responsibility,” she said.

Monticello Rotary fish fry advance tickets are available at the Best Western Chelesa Inn & Suites, Loch Jewlers, State Farm and from any Monticello Rotarian or by calling Carlson at 763-300-4686.

Proceeds from the event directly benefit community service projects within Monticello.

For more information, visit
Adult tickets are $9 per person and children under age 12 are $5.

Contact Tim Hennagir at [email protected]