PARIS, Tenn. (WKRN) – Head west from Nashville and you’ll run into Paris, Tennessee, where the population is around 11,000.
But every year during the last week in April, the population soars to almost 150,000.
It’s all thanks to an event that organizer Loria Plunk says it brings the entire community together.
“We actually are one of those organizations who had a police escort for cole slaw,” she said.
It’s the World’s Biggest Fish Fry with all-you-can-eat catfish.
“We usually have somewhere around 12,500 pounds of fish that we cook in a week. We have hush puppies, we have coleslaw, we have beans, french fries and a drink. All you can eat for $12,” Plunk told News 2.
This week is the event’s 63rd year. They’ve had fish enthusiasts come all the way from Germany and England.
According to Paris Mayor Carlton Gerrell, many keep coming back.
“Tens of thousands of people will be here in the next couple of days. People from all over the country make an annual pilgrimage here every year. There are people that come down every year, plan their vacation around the fish fry,” Mayor Gerrell explained.
Volunteering at the fish fry is a family tradition for many that live in the area, including residents like Andy Cook.
“My dad passed away from cancer six years ago, and he was in charge of the fish tent up until that time. Before that, it had been his brother Bobby, which the tent is named for. I’m a third generation Cox to cook here. It started out with my granddaddy,” he said.
Cook’s kids also help to fry up the five tons of catfish that will be served this year, and he says the sheer volume of fish presents its challenges.
“You’re talking probably around a 15-pound load of fish at a time that we’re cooking. Each pot works a little different, and each of us has to get a reminder each year of how our pot really cooks. Four days out of the year, we’re up here doing this rather than using your deep fryer at home, just doing a half dozen pieces at a time,” he explained.
There are plenty of other activities as well, including a rodeo, carnival, grand parade, concerts, dances, and even a junior fishing rodeo. It’s an event for the whole family.
The World’s Biggest Fish Fry runs through Sunday at the Henry County Fairgrounds.
Click here for a list of planned events.