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Fish fry sails to world record 801 dinners sold over four hours at fairgrounds event held by Polish Union

There was something a little fishy about the record that was set at the Erie County Fairgrounds on Friday.

Of course, fish tales tend to be an embellishment of the facts. So the Polish Union of America's quest to become the Guinness world record-holder for hosting the largest fish fry quite naturally falls in that realm. Jim Serafin, chairman of the union's Old-Fashioned Fish Fry Committee, acknowledged that the group was perched for success, no matter how many fish dinners were served.

"No one has even attempted to set a fish fry record, so we said: 'Let's be the first. Let's be the ones to be the pacesetters for the rest of the world," Serafin said.

"We sent an application to [the Guinness organization in London], and we're now documenting how many dinners we served. Whatever number we get, that will be the record. That'll be the standard to work from, and we'll be expected to exceed it or double it or triple it next year," he added.

The final tally was 801 fish fry dinners sold over four hours.

"The heavy rain held the numbers down, but we're delighted. We honestly didn't know what to expect," Serafin said.

Stan Krolick of Kolick's Barbeque in Arcade catered the fish fry and was prepared to serve a lot more meals.

"I'm prepared that, if we really had to, I could [serve] 600 meals in seven minutes, but it's not going to happen today," Krolick said.

However, Dorothy and Norbert Ratajczk of Orchard Park, two volunteers for the event, were a bit overwhelmed by the initial brisk pace of sales.

"At one point it was going so fast I couldn't breathe," said Dorothy Ratajczk, 78.

"They kept bringing it in every couple of minutes," added her husband, Norbert, 80.

A brief downpour shortly after the start of the event appeared to keep the anticipated crowds down, but hardy folk -- like Ted Beardsley of Buffalo -- were undaunted.

"I'm here to help out [with the record attempt]. I usually go [elsewhere] every Friday for a fish fry, but I thought I'd try this," Beardsley said.

Rose and Robert Kochan of Blasdell joined friends for the dinner held in the Grange Building.

"Being first-generation Polish-American, I think we enjoy the food and the music the most. Beyond that, we enjoy the knowledge of all the Polish traditions," Rose said.

The event was the kickoff to the fifth annual Polish Heritage Festival.

"It's our second year at the Hamburg Fairgrounds. We are now the largest Polish festival in New York State. We expect to have at least 10,000 people here over the weekend," Serafin said.

Other events include a talent show, also held Friday, other contests, music, dancing, raffles and, of course, great Polish food.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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