Above: Deacon Brent Robertson and Jim Brown were manning the grill at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Downtown, on Friday. (Vickie Babyak photo, special to Tube City Almanac)
Lent marks the 40 days observed by Christians as a time of fasting, penance and prayer before Easter Sunday.
Traditionally, Catholics have given up eating red meat on Fridays during Lent as a form of sacrifice, and Catholic churches, volunteer fire departments and other organizations have held fish fries.
As a result, Lenten fish fries have always been a big deal in parts of the country with a large Roman Catholic population, including Western Pennsylvania.
But over the past 10 years, fish fries have become a major feature of Pittsburgh area culture, embracing not just Catholics, but Christians and non-Christians alike. Websites have sprung up to review and rank local fish fries, and some churches and civic organizations have added other ethnic foods to make their particular fish fries stand out.
With Easter Sunday upon us, Friday marked the last Lenten fish fries for 2019. Photographer Vickie Babyak stopped at some local fish fries in the Mon-Yough area to grab a few last scenes (and fish sandwiches).
All photos: Vickie Babyak for Tube City Almanac. To request a reprint, contact email@example.com.
Bethlehem Baptist Church
At Bethlehem Baptist Church on Walnut Street, a steady crowd of customers came in to pick-up orders, and there were walk-ins too.
Volunteers kept busy answering the phone, cooking and packing orders throughout Friday afternoon. One volunteer whose presence was sorely missed was longtime church member Leonard Reed, who died April 1 at the age of 63.
Deacon Cecil Johnson is in charge of cooking the fish.
From left, Bethlehem Baptist's fish fry volunteers included Johnson, Patricia Grayson, Rev. Vanessa Roberts, Paula Parker and Latoya Brown.
St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church
Over on Hartman Street, St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church was a busy place and a number of people were coming in to eat. Take-out was available but customers were able to sit at tables set up in the hall if they wanted to stay and eat. Church members were extremely busy and friendly to everyone.
Ruben Trbovic, Rev. Stevan Rocknage, Mike Cervo and Dennis McNamara.
Bake sale volunteers Donna Vranesevic, Sari McNamara, Andy DuBoy, Dennis Washowich, Lora Washowich.
American Legion Gen. Smedley D. Butler Post 701
Above: Bobby Frum from Liberty Borough, Chip Walker from Port Vue and Tess Spiegel work in the kitchen.
On Capital Street in White Oak, volunteers at American Legion Gen. Smedley D. Butler Post 701 barely had time to catch their breath filling lunchtime orders on Friday.
In the middle of the afternoon, things slowed down, and gave the fish fry volunteers a chance to slow down before the dinner rush.
Mary Rose Maksin from West Mifflin and Chip Walker from Port Vue were taking an order from a customer.
Tess Spiegel prepares a soup order.
Vickie Babyak is a freelance photographer who attends events for Tube City Almanac. To request a reprint of any of these photos, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published April 20, 2019.