Tag Archives: arkansas department of correction

Time again for Grady Fish Fry on fourth Thursday in August!!!

I went to the Grady Fish Fry last year and got to visit with Rex Nelson, Senator Pryor and Boozman, Lt. Gov. Mark Darr and many others. Below is a story by Rex Nelson on last year’s fish fry:

Back to Grady (and other Arkansas favorites)

At the first of every year, I mark the annual Grady Lions Club Catfish Supper on my calendar.

It’s always the third Thursday in August. Always.

It’s always in the Ned Hardin pecan grove.

And it’s almost always hot.

Commonly known as the Grady Fish Fry, it’s among my favorite annual events. I’ve written about it before.

In an election year, the politicians flock to Grady. Among congressional and statewide officeholders and candidates, I saw Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Sen. Mark Pryor, Rep. John Boozman, Jim Keet, Shane Broadway, Mark Darr and Beth Anne Rankin there last night.

There likely were others who left before I arrived or maybe I just just missed seeing them. The event begins at 4 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m. As I said in a post at this time last year, the Grady Fish Fry marks the unofficial end of summer for me. Bring on football season.

I also mentioned last year (but must mention again) what is perhaps the most fascinating contraption in the state — the famed Grady hushpuppy machine, constructed decades ago from pieces of equipment found on area farms. One after another, the huspuppies come out of the machine and are put into the hot grease. If they ever stop using it, it should be donated to the Smithsonian as an example of American ingenuity.

I had a great visit last night with Sherwood Haisty, 85, a Lions Club member who has been a part of 40 of the 55 fish fries. He told me how the members of the Lions Club once worked for days in the hot sun setting up tables, bringing in the products, etc.

Then somebody had the bright idea of asking the Arkansas Department of Correction for help. For years now, it has been a mutually beneficial relationship.

For the Lions Club members, there’s a captive workforce, if you will.

For those who work at the nearby state prisons, there’s a carrot they can dangle in front of inmates – in exchange for good behavior, you can get out for one night and receive a great meal in the process.

Those men from around Arkansas in their white prison garb who are handing out slices of watermelon, filling glasses of iced tea and cleaning off the tables are now just as much a part of the event as the giant pecan trees in the Hardin grove. And the prison band sounded better than ever last night. The lead vocalist has true talent.

Think about it. There are politicians shaking hands. Inmates wearing white and guards wearing blue. A pecan orchard. People cooling themselves with the funeral home-style fans handed out by the politicians. Catfish. Hushpuppies. Watermelon. It just doesn’t get more Southern. It’s like something out of a movie.

Sadly, as the population of rural southeast Arkansas grows older and smaller, we lose members of the Lions Club each year. Rev. Clyde Venable passed away in 2009. Earlier this year, charter members Bill Blankenship and R.C. Johnson died.

Hopefully, there’s some young blood in the area to keep this landmark event going.

A lot of people help out. Hardin Farms supplies the watermelons. Simmons First supplies the plates. St. Michaels Farms supplies catfish. I could go on and on.

Money raised from this annual event (it’s $12 each for all you can eat) allows the Grady Lions Club to provide college scholarships, pay for eye exams and pay for glasses for those who could not otherwise afford them.