Fried food, fun for family

Summer traditions from funnel cakes to carnival rides are in full swing this weekend at the 64th annual Lions Fish Fry & Carnival.

Families filled Costa Mesa's Lions Park on Saturday for the fundraiser, which included the famous $10 fish dinner, raffles, live music and games.

Mike Scheafer, Costa Mesa Newport Harbor Lions Club board member and Fish Fry chairman, said 10,000 to 15,000 people were expected over the course of the weekend event, which continues Sunday.

"This is the biggest community event in Costa Mesa," Scheafer said. "It's been here the longest. And the fish is good."

Scheafer said he expected to serve 850 pounds of Alaskan cod and 500 pounds of French fries by the end of the weekend. He said only two people know the top-secret batter recipe that covers the fish, which is served with coleslaw and fries, so special.

"My favorite saying is 'Even people who don't like fish like our fish,' " Scheafer said.

But it's been more than just the food that's drawn crowds to the event since the 1940s.

Carol Proctor of Fountain Valley, a retired Costa Mesa city employee and the president-elect of the Harbor Mesa Lions Club, said the Fish Fry is a tradition. She said that although the event has gotten smaller over the years, families still love it.

"Communities tend to embrace tradition," Proctor said. "It's family-oriented, so everyone is welcome, and it's very community-minded."

Members of the Women's Club sold cookies, sodas and fish-shaped bead necklaces at a booth Saturday.

"It's a lot of work and a lot of organization, but also a lot of fun," Proctor said.

Other vendors set up shop to sell goods like jewelry, clothes and reusable lunch bags. In addition to the fish, vendors offered fair foods like burgers, fried Oreos and corn dogs.

Kim Corbett and Bob Krogh, of Costa Mesa, said they come back year after year for the summer fun and to help the community.

"It's really nice that there is some way the community can come together," Corbett said.

The Lions Club typically raises $40,000 to $50,000 each year, Scheafer said, and proceeds go to local charities like the Boys & Girls Club and the senior center.

Visitors said the event brings a small-town feeling to the middle of Orange County.

"I grew up in a small town where we had county fairs every summer, and it's that same feeling," Krogh said. "It's just nostalgia."

The Fish Fry continues Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Lions Park, 567 W. 18th St., Costa Mesa. Admission is free.

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