If you ask Henry Longerman, the key to hosting a good community fish fry is pretty simple.
"You've got to give the people a good meal," Longerman said. "And a chance to come in and visit with each other. People come here and see neighbors who they haven't seen all winter."
Longerman's been the president of the Moon Township Volunteer Fire Company for more than two decades. Each year he manages the department's annual Lenten fish fry -- the department's biggest fundraising event. Money raised at the dinners typically goes to purchase equipment and supplies for the department's volunteers.
"It's a homey feeling," Longerman said of the event. "And we've held the line on the prices."
The department's annual fish fry takes place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every Friday in Lent in the township's Public Safety Building.
Longerman said about 300 people packed the department's first fish fry Friday evening. A church group from Coraopolis comes by regularly, he said, and its members fill a couple of rows of tables in the back.
"We just got a call from (U.S. Rep.) Tim Murphy's right-hand man," Longerman said in between greeting guests. "He said his plane just landed from D.C. and he's going to be stopping by."
In the kitchen, members of the department prepare about 500 pounds of hearty 8-ounce fish fillets each week. When the Public Safety Building was constructed, the kitchen was intended to serve as the hose-washing room, but Longerman said it works better for deep-frying fish.
The kitchen staff starts frying its first batch of fish as early as 9:30 a.m., said Jim Henkemeyer, the township public works director and a volunteer firefighter. Other items on the menu include shrimp, French fries and coleslaw.
"You'll hate fish," Henkemeyer said. "After you work here for a couple of hours, you've had all the fish you need."
Henkemeyer said the friendly atmosphere keeps residents coming back every year.
"It's the same group of people," he said. "It's a good group of people."
"It ain't a restaurant," said volunteer firefighter Lee Bilby. "Everyone gets up and mills around and talks to each other."