A record crowd turned out for the Seal Beach Lions Club's 67th annual Fish Fry, but one person was noticeably absent Sunday night.
Her name was called from the stage, and hundreds of heads turned left and right, scanning the Fish Fry crowd for any sign of Seal Beach resident Tamara Sverev.
Though she wasn’t to be found at the Fish Fry, Sverev will still get to claim a 2011 Ford Edge-SE as the grand-prize winner of the Fish Fry raffle. Only 600 tickets at $100 each were sold, and organizers said tickets sold out quickly. Second- and third-prize winners received a 55-inch Vizio LCD HDTV and an Apple iPod.
The raffle and food and drink sales helped the Seal Beach Lions Club raise about $60,000 over the course of two days.
All throughout the two-day event at Eisenhower Park, organizers said, there was a steady flow of thousands as people of all ages who came to celebrate the summer season in Seal Beach.
“It’s been a great weekend,” said Scott Newton, vice president of the Seal Beach Lions Club. “There are people everywhere, and we’re having a great time.”
The money raised will help fund projects that improve the community, including the refurbishment of 22 park benches, graffiti removal, programs for autistic children and a baseball tournament for blind children, said Newton.
Newton said the Lions Club has traditionally directed a lot of its efforts toward the blind and those with vision problems because of its connection to Helen Keller.
“In 1925, Helen Keller came to the Lions and asked, ‘Will you be the knights of the blind?’ Since then we’ve always helped the blind,” he said.
At the Fish Fry, the organization collected more than 250 pairs of glasses to help those who cannot afford them. The highlight of the event, though, was, of course, the Fish Fry.
Many folks stood in a long line to get their eagerly awaited plates of coleslaw, fried fish and french fries. Ramona Kies, one of the event’s 150 volunteers, said she had to work to control the line.
“I’m working crowd control, and sometimes I had to grab people out of line,” she said.
Newton said he estimates that the reason for the record crowd is because of the recent jump in membership. Last year, he said, the Seal Beach Lions Club increased its membership 50 percent, and these new members are helping to spread the news.
“We have a great reputation in this town, and people always ask, ‘What can we do to help?’ and we always tell them, 'Go to the Fish Fry,' " Newton said.
This year, the Fish Fry was so popular that open chairs were few and far between, but that didn’t stop people from coming into the event and enjoying the live bands and beach views.
This was the third Fish Fry for Michelle and Michael Blumberg of Cypress, and it’s a tradition they’ll continue each year, they said.
“It’s really fun, and we look forward to it every year,” added Michelle.
Although the event has become a tradition for the Seal Beach community, it has grown to attract a number of people from all over North Orange County, and organizers said they understand why.
“You get a million-dollar view, get to listen to free music and help a charity organization at the same time, you can’t lose,” Newton said.