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Hotline fundraiser offers free rides

Popular Fish Fry event adds wine, transportation home for attendees

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- A fundraising event popular for its fried fish and beer plans to offer free rides home this year in addition to its shuttle service downtown.

Concern Hotline Inc.'s annual Fish Fry returns for its 12th year on Friday, 4-9 p.m., at Grove's Winchester Harley-Davidson on Millwood Pike.

Concern provides crisis intervention, suicide prevention, information and referral services to people in need in Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties and Winchester, 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Organizers plan to fry more than 1,000 pounds of catfish for the event, proceeds from which benefit the agency serving the area since 1968.

Organizers moved the event last year from downtown to the new site to accommodate traffic going in and out as well as the larger crowds. This year organizers decided to offer free rides home, within a 10-mile radius, for participants at the end of the fish fry, according to Christine Mayman, executive director of Concern.

"We want to make sure people are safe," Mayman said. "I mean, this is a beer and wine event and we want to make sure people get home safe."

Organizers also added wine to the menu this year.

As in years past, the event features a drive-through service for people who wish to buy fish to go. Baseball players and cheerleaders from Shenandoah University also return to sell raffle tickets and help control traffic for the drive-through.

The event features live music performed by Legendary Hellhounds and Shag beginning at 5:30 p.m. A moon-bounce and children's activities provided by the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum also return.

A free shuttle provided by Jim Stutzman Chevrolet and 1st Class Chauffeur Services allows people to park their vehicles downtown, ride to the fish fry, then return later.

Pick-up for the shuttle begins at 4 p.m. at Sweet Caroline's on Cork Street and runs each half hour. People used the service implemented last year, Mayman said. Organizers hope more people take advantage of the shuttle, and they can use it to make it back downtown in time to see the bands play more music at Sweet Caroline's. Those people who attend the fish fry can use their ticket stubs at Sweet Caroline's, according to Mayman.

After seeing the success of the shuttle service last year, organizers went a step further for safety.

"We recognized pretty quickly that, you know, 'Hey, people are leaving this event, have had too much to drink, let's add another layer to that and give them a free ride home,'" Mayman recalled. "So, in light of all the drunk driving incidents that have happened in the area over the last year, we want to be responsible. Our partners recognize this is an opportunity to do that so we want to make that available for folks and have them know that."

Mayman said she did not know if any drunken driving incidents occurred during or after last year's fish fry, but the free rides should help prevent any from occurring if people take advantage of the offer.

Tickets cost $12 in advance or $15 at the gate. Tickets are available at Harley-Davidson dealership, Concern's business office, Impressions Plus, John B. Hayes Tobacconist, Total Image Workingman's Store, Foster's Jewelers and Harvest Moon in Creekside.

Contact Mayman at 536-1632 or by email at exdir@visuallink.com for more information.

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