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How a Wayne County fire department became Palmer’s largest haddock customer during Lent

It’s 2:30 p.m., two hours before the start of the event, and Margaret Grant is settling in for the wait. “I have to be the first one,” the 82-year-old Sodus resident says with a smile.

She sits in a chair near the door of the fire hall, working on a word search puzzle book to pass the time. She’s not alone for long, though, as Don Drury arrives next; the 75-year-old Sodus resident often is second. They visit with the other people that join them in line, as well as the volunteers setting up, and reminisce about the time a banjo player visited and Grant joined in on the spoons.

It’s the second Friday of Lent, which means it’s one of the seven days of the biggest event of the year in Fairville: the Fairville Volunteer Fire Department fish fry. A flashing electronic sign in front of the department boasts that it sold a record number of fish fries the previous week — 1,952 in all.

Breaking 2,000 is the next goal of Jeff Grass, 38, co-chair of the event. He has been working at the fish fry since he was 12, when his dad was a member of the fire department and the number of fish fries was merely in the hundreds.

Whether or not Grass achieves his goal, the fire department serves a staggering amount of fish. In fact, during Lent, the Fairville Fire Department orders more haddock from the Rochester-based wholesale food service distributor Palmer Food Services than any of its other clients.

“They sell a lot of haddock,” said Kip Palmer, the company’s chief executive officer. “It’s candidly quite amazing at how many fish dinners they serve on Fridays in Lent.”

What’s especially remarkable is that this happens in a rural part of Wayne County, roughly a 45-minute drive from Rochester, in a place that barely exists.

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