The first SCGOP Fish Fry was held in 2005 and the speaker was Congressman Tom Cole. Through the years, the event has featured both politicos and entertainers. Keynotes have included a Will Rogers impersonator, a John Wayne impersonator, and Prayer Force One, a bus painted like Air Force One. For the first couple of years, it was held in the Territory Hall at the Fairgrounds, but the last five years, the event has been held in the Stephens County Fairgrounds Rodeo Arena. Last year U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe spoke to over 750, the year before, Senator Anthony Sykes to a similar number. In 2010, Senator Tom Coburn spoke to over 850. The largest crowd in the event’s history is expected this year when Governor Mary Fallin is the keynote speaker. Republicans will travel from all over the state to be at the largest gathering of Rs before the June 24th primary.
This event is unique for a variety of reasons. First, it is completely and totally planned and executed by volunteers. There is no caterer, decorator, event planner, or professional fundraiser. Local GOP volunteers clean, bread and fry the fish. Local candidates and elected officials serve the fish and everyone helps clean up. It is a complete team effort. The local Party owns two large ‘Cajun Cooker’ fish fryers, and borrows two others. Each of the fryers has four frying baskets. The huge crowd is served hot fish with all the trimmings in less than thirty minutes. The logistics itself is impressive. Why would volunteers invest their time and energy on an event that requires hours of sacrifice? Quite simply, because they believe they are making a difference in their government. They know the money raised will be used to help elect solid conservative candidates to office.
The second reason the event is unique is because it features only one keynote speaker. Unlike most political events, where everyone who is an elected official or a candidate gets to speak, on Saturday night only Governor Fallin will speak. There will be literally dozens of elected officials in attendance. Nine of the twelve statewide elected officials in Oklahoma are expected to attend. More than a dozen state legislators will be there. There will be at least three candidates for the open U.S. Senate seat and both candidates for the Corporation Commission seat. And none will get to speak from the platform other than the keynote speaker. They are encouraged to campaign and engage those in attendance person to person, but this event is a fundraiser for the local Party, not a candidate forum.
The final reason this event is unique is because it is fun. Most political events can’t be categorized as fun. The Stephens County GOP Fish Fry features clowns (real ones, not just the politicians) for the kids, fun videos and there is an informal causal festive atmosphere. It’s readily apparent the organizers of this event don’t take themselves seriously even though they take the cause very seriously. There is laughing and joking and the live auction becomes entertainment in and of itself. This year, the auction will have a pair of George HW Bush’s socks, a Browning 28 gauge over and under, and a Henry Golden Boy 22! This event is special simply because it is different than a normal political event.
The Stephens County GOP does present the Dr. Gerald Beasley Jr. Memorial Award at the Fish Fry. It is an award given annually to a local volunteer activist who has demonstrated a true grassroots spirit of changing their government from the bottom up. The late Dr. Beasley was a long time Duncan physician whose passion was politics. The recipient of the award is not publicly disclosed until the time of presentation.
If you want to meet a lot of elected officials, have some great fish and a fun time; come join the Stephens County Republican Party on Saturday night at the Stephens County Fairgrounds. It all kicks off at 6pm, but rest assured the candidates and the clowns will be there early. For ticket information, call 580.656.7951 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.