Catfish fest gets under way Saturday in Yantis

Fifth annual parade and fish fry expected to draw hundreds of people

From Staff Reports

July 11, 2008 - If you enjoy a good catfish dinner with all the fixings, the place to be Saturday evening is Yantis, where the community's population could easily triple during its Fifth Annual Yantis Catfish Day.

In addition to adding a fun evening to the lake community, the event also helps generate funds for a worthy cause -- the town fire department.

"This is the one time a year Yantis is shut down," said Wesley Crist, Yantis Volunteer Fire Department Chief. "Bring some water -- it's going to be hot."

That's part of the reason the celebration is held at this time of the year, Crist added.

"In July there's not much to do because it's so hot, and by now the 4th of July celebrations are over," he said. "The catfish tournament is Saturday and Sunday, so we're doing the parade and fish fry to go along with that."

If the turnout in recent years is anything to go by, the time is perfect. Last year more than 600 people -- nearly twice the town's population -- turned out for Catfish Day. This year, more than 1,800 fliers telling of the event were mailed to Yantis residents and those receiving letters on Yantis mail routes.

The festivities begin Saturday at Yantis Community Center with a parade. Selected to act as grand marshal for this year's procession is Keith Gilbreath, Wood County's newly elected Precinct 1 Commissioner.

"He's a local guy, grew up here in Yantis," Crist said. "We figured he's a local guy, a public officer, so why not make him the grand marshal."

Line-up for the parade is at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and all are welcome to participate. Area pageant winners and rodeo royalty, civic groups and others are invited to join the city council and other elected officials, Masonic Lodge and churches in the parade. Everything from horses to bikes and anything on four wheels is welcome, but parade organizers ask that those on all-terrain vehicles not get too wild and horse riders go to the back of the line. Winnsboro Fire Department's new tanker will be featured in the parade and at the Catfish Day, as will Yantis VFD's fleet. Some other fire departments that recently acquired new equipment have indicated they'll be displaying them in the parade, as well.

"If they want to be in the parade, tell them to come on. We'll let them," said the chief of YVFD. "Tell them to be at the community center at 3:30 to get in line."

For those interested in watching, the colorful caravan will start at 4 p.m. at the community center, then proceed south on State Highway 154 for two to three blocks before turning east and eventually wind its way to Yantis school to the cafeteria.

After the parade, Yantis Volunteer Fire Department will be holding a fish fry in Yantis school cafeteria, the second year the event has been held in the air conditioned school facility. The menu includes Delta Price catfish with all the fixings, including fries and homegrown vegetables. There will also be plenty of home-baked sweet treats, including cobblers.

As an added treat, live entertainment will be provided by Dale Cummings, or "The C" as he's also know. He'll be singing all the old favorites, including Elvis tunes, from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

The cost for the feast is simply a donation to benefit the fire department. Food will be served beginning at 5 p.m. until it's gone. All proceeds from the fish fry will go to Yantis VFD toward to purchase of a tanker truck, similar to the one Winnsboro's Fire Department will display.

The Yantis department currently answers about 20 calls a month, including rescue and medical calls, with their 2005 pumper truck, an older model engine, two brush trucks and rescue truck. They cover an 83 square mile area, and sometimes assist in neighboring areas such as Hopkins County on request. When large water supplies are needed, they currently have to rely on tankers from Quitman, which is 12 miles away, although the volunteer fire department at Land's End will be installing a new tanker in October, according to Crist.

For more information about the parade, contact Yantis Mayor Jerry Miller at 903-850-9500 or Crist at 903-348-5980. Crist may also be contacted for more information about the catfish dinner.

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