If it looks like the Prairie Township Firefighters Association fish fry runs like a well-oiled machine, that's because it does.

The 69th annual event June 29 and 30 included games, live music and -- of course -- the fish. More than 100 classic cars rolled into the parking lot of Station 241 at 123 Inah Ave. for the 18th annual Cruise-In on June 29.

"We start execution two weeks out," Lt. Jim Troesch said. "Each day before the fish fry, we've got a chore list."

By 8 a.m. June 29, crews were setting up thawing tables to prepare the ocean perch.

Officials expected to fry up about 2,000 pounds of fish by the end of the weekend.

"It takes about three or four minutes to fry up a batch of fish. We have three to four fryers going, so we can fry up a few pounds at a time," Troesch said. "It runs just like an engine."

The firefighters use their own homemade recipes -- "our baked-bean committee," Troesch jokes -- to mix up the side dish in 25-gallon buckets.

If fish doesn't float your boat, the firefighters had hamburgers and french fries for sale, too.

There's just one thing that's not on the menu.

"It's kind of tradition that before we fry the fish each year, the firefighters like deep-fried hotdogs," Troesch said.

Scorching heat didn't keep the faithful away, with lines wrapping around both sides of the fish house at dinnertime.

"Business is booming," Chief Chris Snyder said. "The weather has probably helped us very much -- without any rain -- and the car show turned out great."

The fry cooks are usually the more experienced members of the department, but not everyone is a veteran.

"This is my first fish fry," said Nick Leidheisar, who came to the 2017 event while on a ride-along with a neighboring fire department.

He was hired in April as a part-time firefighter and is part of the "new boys."

One of the reasons he applied for the position with the Prairie Township department was a chance to be a part of the fish-fry tradition, he said.

"There is a lot of pressure; it's the fire department's event and it's up to us to make it happen. We all come in off duty to help prep, set up, and help run it," Leidheiser said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, we're interacting with the community on their worst day. This is a chance to do something different."

So which is hotter, a fire or a fish fry?

"We're exposed to heat at the fish fry for a longer period of time than we are at a fire, I'll put it that way," Snyder said. "This is a 69-year tradition and we owe the credit to the people who came well before us. And we owe it to them to keep it going."

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