The fish flew to Costa Mesa, as the 75th Lions Club’s Fish Fry returned to the place of origin

The fish was flying at Lions Park this weekend, as the Lions Club of Costa Mesa-Newport Harbor celebrated the return of the city’s annual Fish Fry with games, rides, shows and plenty of fish dinners, all for a good cause.

The festivities went off without a hitch at the city’s newly renovated Lions Park, aka Airplane Park, which housed a beer and wine garden and dining hall, as well as a Ferris wheel and other rides for youngsters. heart from Friday to Sunday.

Lions Club member and organizer Joan Parks reported good attendance with just five fish dinners remaining as of 8 p.m. Sunday.

“We had a lot of people wanting fish dinners after that — we had to turn people away,” Parks said Monday while taking a day off from weekend activities.

Locals attended the 75th annual Fish Fry at Lions Park in Costa Mesa, which returned Friday through Sunday after a two-year hiatus.

(Spencer Grant)

Several local organizations and agencies manned booths, where they distributed information and prizes. Dean Thompkins — who manages the online media platform »I Heart Costa Mesa– sold city-themed merchandise including t-shirts, stickers and embroidered hats advertising the west side of Costa Mesa.

The items were so popular that Thompkins said Monday he stayed up late Friday and Saturday nights to create more merchandise, a sacrifice he was happy to make.

"burrowing owl" Terry Welch explains Banning Ranch preservation to 3-year-old Valentina Romo at Fish Fry in Costa Mesa.

“Burrowing Owl” Terry Welch explains Banning Ranch preservation to 3-year-old Valentina Romo Saturday at the Lions Club Fish Fry in Costa Mesa.

(Spencer Grant)

“I grew up going to the Fish Fry in Airplane Park,” said Thompkins, who also owns ThunderKing Coffee on the 17th.e Street. “It’s such an important part of my childhood and my friends’ childhood. We all loved it and had a great time.”

One stand, however, remained conspicuously empty on Saturday afternoon. A grill tent advertising burgers and hot dogs for sale and run by the Estancia High School baseball team had no one to run it, thanks to the Regional Division’s Division V championship game. CIF Southern California State that day, in which the Eagles beat Baldwin Park in a stunning 11-2 victory.

“When we heard they had won, we made a big announcement and everyone was screaming,” Parks said. “[On Sunday], you couldn’t get the kids to wipe the smiles off their faces. They were in seventh heaven.

A questioning Ron Morse contemplates his $15 fish dinner Saturday at the Fish Fry at Lions Park in Costa Mesa, June 4, 2022.

A quizzical Ron Morse contemplates his $15 fish dinner Saturday at the Fish Fry at Lions Park in Costa Mesa.

(Spencer Grant)

For Thompkins, the Fish Fry is not just a good time, but a family tradition. His grandfather and uncles were members of the Lions Club, and the family operated a raffle booth at the time. To honor this proud lineage, Thompkins wore his grandfather’s apron throughout the weekend.

The annual event has seen several different iterations since its beginnings in 1946, including a migration from Lions Park to Fairview Park in 2012 and back again.

In 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to the festivities and a reorganization of the club’s workforce brought new leaders into the fold. While this year’s fry have been reduced somewhat from previous years, organizers say they hope to continue this year’s work in years to come.

“Without a doubt, we want to have it next year,” Parks said.

City of Costa Mesa staff members Bella Espinoza, Julie Nguyen, Lizbeth Gomez and Vicente Martinez try out hoops and jump rope.

City of Costa Mesa staff members Bella Espinoza, Julie Nguyen, Lizbeth Gomez and Vicente Martinez try out hoops and jump rope Saturday at the 75th Lions Club Fish Fry at Lions Park.

(Spencer Grant)

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Charles P. Patton