Tempers in New Boston hit a new high on Wednesday night in front of city hall, with members of the Community Club of New Boston wanting to settle the matter with Mayor Christopher DeFrieze that evening.
It all started last week when the Mayor sent out a letter dated Aug. 14, 2012 to the club president Lenise Phillips Nelson and club secretary Tammie Phillips. The letter asked the club to remove any of its belongings from outbuildings in Fish Fry Park by Aug. 20, or have the remaining property be considered the property of the City of New Boston "unless you notify us in writing that the Community Club and Fish Fry Committee can share the items."
The mayor asked to have the club return any keys to the buildings they have and if remaining incorporated, show proof of insurance in order to keep having events in Fish Fry Park.
The mayor also offered to discuss the matter with the club, prior to the Aug. 20 deadline.
"Lenise attempted to contact the mayor," said club member Cyndy Moulds. "The office told her the mayor was unavailable until Wednesday."
Timing was everything in this encounter. Members of the Community Club of New Boston met Saturday morning on Aug. 18 and attempted to comply with the request by removing items that belonged to their club. On Monday Lenise Phillips called city hall to make an appointment with the mayor only to be told the mayor was unavailable to meet with them until Aug. 22 -- a 5 p.m. meeting time was set.
Right around a half hour prior to Wednesday's meeting Phillips said the mayor's office called her home and her family member took a message canceling the 5 p.m. meeting.
A letter was drafted at the Aug. 18 meeting and signed by both members of the Fish Fry Committee and Community Club of New Boston saying, "We the members of the Community Club of New Boston and Fish Fry Committee are going to be sharing utensils, little yellow shed and appliances for Fish Fry 2012.
Even so, members of the committee also worked at complying with the mayor's requests by removing their items from city property. "Our goal is to make sure that the fish fry would continue," said Phillips. "We gave the fish fry group all the equipment."
Since then the padlock has been changed on the outbuilding. This is the second year that the annual New Boston Fish Fry has been run by a Fish Fry Committee. New Boston has held an annual fish fry for the past 90 years, this being the 91st annual fish fry.
In prior years the New Boston Community Club, the Conservation Club and even the New Boston Fire Department have headed up running the festival. The Community Club of New Boston decided to not run the festival two years ago due to declining membership and is now looking to refocus its energy towards offering things for area children, according to Phillips. "We hope to restructure and rename, so that we may be more geared toward the kids," she said.
Page 2 of 2 - What this all comes down to is who owns what and who can use what. There are three large pans that were specially manufactured to fit the equipment to fry the fish that seem to be the biggest bone of contention. At the July 10 , 2005 meeting these pans were mentioned in the minutes of the New Boston Community Club. "They have been guaranteed they will have the pans," said Phillips.
The festival is all about volunteerism. It dates back to the first fish fry that took place in August 1921. Flood waters had threatened to break the levee that guards thousands of acres of farmland in the Bay Island area. Hundreds of volunteers came together for two days to bolster the levee and area farmers held and local merchants came together to offer a free fish fry that year to show their appreciation. The following summer brought a similar threat from the Mississippi River, as well as similar response by area residents -- and another free fish fry was held in appreciation. A few years later the event began being an annual occasion with a small fee for the meal.
The New Boston Fish Fry has grown over the years and continues to attract visitors to the city on the last weekend in August.
Phillips said the Fish Fry Committee is hoping to incorporate to continue on with putting on this annual festival. When that happens, the New Boston Community Club will more than likely even give the committee the three fish fry pans.