A 70-year tradition takes on special significance this year, as the Prairie Township Firefighters Association prepares to serve more than 2,000 pounds of ocean perch at its annual fish fry.
The 70th annual fish fry runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 28 and 29, at Fire Station 241, 123 Inah Ave.
The township fire department is celebrating its 75th year, and 2019 marks the township's bicentennial.
Founded in 1942 when Prairie Township entered into a contract for fire protection with the association, the department started with one chief and 10 volunteer firefighters, according to a book about the department's history compiled for its 50th anniversary.
Two years later, the township took over department operations and began paying its volunteers $1 per hour for fighting fires, the book stated.
The township's first fire station was built in the late 1940s at 23 Maple Drive, currently home to the township's administrative and zoning departments.
It would take more than 20 years -- until 1965 -- for Prairie Township to hire its first full-time firefighter, Louis Scheiderer, at $460 a month, according to the book. It would be another 20 until the department went to 24-hour protection in 1985.
To commemorate the department's anniversary, the fish fry will coincide with a fire-department reunion beginning at 11 a.m. June 29.
The reunion will feature a historical slideshow, and a group photo will be taken, Capt. Tim Hannum said.
"We've reached out to close to 200 past members to invite them to come and help us celebrate our 75th," Hannum said. "We're looking forward to seeing a lot of faces that we haven't seen in a while."
New this year, a beer garden will serve adult beverages, to those with identification, in a controlled area near the entertainment tent, officials said.
While beer will be flowing, the "focus is still on the fish," Chief Chris Snyder said.
Firefighters will fry thousands of pounds of fish during the two-day event, alongside hamburgers, fries, coleslaw and baked beans.
A lunch special will be offered with details posted on the department's Facebook page, Facebook.com/Prairie TwpFire/.
The firefighters association supports the fire department and its education and outreach initiatives.
The association has used money from the fish fry to purchase an Amkus Rescue Systems tool -- like the "jaws of life" -- and to install a 9/11 memorial at the Inah Avenue fire station. Funds also support educational programs and help pay for meals after department personnel's funerals and promotions.
"It's our time to offer something back to the community and a thank-you for supporting us every other day of the year," Snyder said.
Putting on the fish fry is a volunteer effort, with firefighters staffing the kitchen. The fish are kept on refrigerated trucks before being placed on long thawing tables behind the fryers.
"We usually start two to three weeks in advance, getting the building ready. A lot of the hard work is the day before, or two days before when all the items arrive. We have to wait until the day before to get the fryers set up," Hannum said.
The fish fry again will feature a cruise-in June 28, with all makes and models of vehicles welcome. Registration starts at 4:30 p.m., with dash plaques given to the first 100 registrants.
Live entertainment includes country-cover band 23 Southbound, playing from 6 to 10 p.m. June 28 and Tim Castle and the Southern Rock Band playing from 6 to 10 p.m. June 29. Amusement rides, vendors and raffles round out the schedule.
The annual Westland Area Business Association Independence Day parade will step off at 10 a.m. June 29 from the Lincoln Village Plaza and head west along West Broad Street, before ending on Norton Middle School, parade organizer Greg Burke said.
More than 40 floats and groups are expected, including all four South-Western City School District high school marching bands and representatives from the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and the Prairie Township Fire Department, which will lead the parade.
"We have our most important people up front," Burke said.
WABA decided years ago to move its July Fourth parade to the final Saturday in June, in order to not compete with surrounding communities.
"We're always the Saturday before July Fourth and it's fallen into place over the last couple of years with the Prairie Township Fish Fry. People have come to expect it and look forward to it. The parade ends and the fish fry is pretty much across the street."
Anyone who worked for the fire department and hasn't been contacted by the reunion committee is asked to call 614-878-8100.
More information can be found at www.prairietownship.org /264/Fish-Fry.