“We served more food than ever before, had more people than ever before, and made more money than ever before,” said current Smyrna Rotary Club President Robert Stevens to a record crowd at the 19th Annual Wings of Freedom Fish Fry.
Every year the club honors veterans or other groups of heroes who have gone above and beyond in their field. This year the event honored first responders, locally and those who lost their lives saving others 20 years ago when terrorists bombed the World Trade Center.
The 44 local honorees represented Eagleville Fire and Police Departments, Lascassas Fire Department, Murfreesboro Fire and Police Departments, Rutherford County EMS, Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department, Smyrna’s Fire and Police Departments, and Tennessee Highway Patrol. They were ushered in by bagpipes and drums from Nashville Pipe and Drums, after the presentation of the flag by the Smyrna Fire Department.
“It is with great gratitude and respect that we honor our first responders,” said Judy King, Honoree Coordinator for the evening.
Before presenting this year’s honorees, there was a minute of silence and a bell was rung to pay tribute to the 343 New York City firemen and 39 police officers who lost their lives when terrorists flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
“We all know what we were doing on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at 10:10 a.m. in the moring,” said the video that the club produced to commemorate the loss of so many lives. It was followed by Governor Lee, who joined the event by video to praise local honorees.
The night began with food and beverage tastings from local businesses under a tent lit with Edison lights. These tastings included yummy cobblers from Puckett’s Grocery served with ice cream from Hattie Jane’s, as well as spicy queso and chips from Jo’s Cakes and Catering, and much more. There were smoothie samples from Smoothie King, and beer from Prohibition Brewing. Carpe Artista provided music under the tent.
While enjoying the local goodies, visitors could make bids on the silent auction – like gift baskets from Heritage South and Mission Barbecue — or view the more than 60 cars participating in the Classic Car Drive-In. There was everything on the tarmac from 1950s muscle cars to early 20th century versions. A few planes, too.
Lines formed quickly to get some of the Rotary Club’s famous fried catfish, white beans, coleslaw, pickles, chips, cookies and hush puppies. Local liquor stores, like LaVergne Beverage Depot, served wine and beer.
After the presentation, the 1980s-tribute band Mix Tape got feet tapping and bodies moving with their high-octane tunes and played into the night.
Since 2003, when the club started the Fish Fry, they have raised more than $1.5 million to give back to the community. The last several years Smyrna Rotary Club’s goal has been to build the all-inclusive Freedom Playground at Lee Victory Park that was completed last year. This year, $50,000 of the estimated $200,000 in gross receipts will go toward building ADA compliant restrooms near the playground. The rest of the monies raised by the event will be donated to local non-profits and towards six college scholarships.
The Smyrna Rotary Club was chartered in 1971 by a group of businessmen who felt that the city could use a strong social and civic club dedicated to community service. The club works to improve the quality of life for children and families.