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Fish Fry Fridays heat up with the first Friday of Lent

Fish Fry Fridays in Louisville is something people take very seriously.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The sizzle of hot oil, the smell of deep-fried goodness and the sound of satisfied taste buds all herald the beginning of Fish Fry Fridays in Louisville, something people take very seriously.

"I guess it's because of the Ohio River," Clarence Bivens said. "I don't know."

Bivens has fried fish during the Lent season at Portland Memorial Missionary Baptist Church for the last 20 years. Now 77, he said this has been a tradition for as long as he can remember.

RELATED: LIST | The best places to get good fish sandwiches in Louisville

"All my life we were fish lovers, like every Friday we had fish," he said.

It definitely helps if your church has good fish too, which is why Priscilla Johnson said she has made the drive from Lexington on Fridays during Lent to Portland Memorial Missionary Baptist Church for the last five years.

"It's only 85 miles of road and I typically get the buffalo fish and I can't typically get it in Lexington, so it's an easy trip for me to come and get buffalo," she said.

At St. John Paul II's fish fry, variety is the name of the game with customers having around 20 options to choose from, ranging from the traditional fried fish to a healthier baked fish to fish and shrimp tacos and oysters.

Jackie Graves, who has worked at St. John Paul II's fish fries for the last 30 years, has her own ideas about why these events are so popular in Kentuckiana.

"I think it's because we have a lot of Catholics in Louisville," she said.

But beyond that, she said these fish fries are also an opportunity for people to get together.

"All of our workers, we work on Thursday night preparing and we're all friends, so that's the best part," she said.

"The community looks forward to this," Bivens said. "It's a time to fellowship, time for different neighbors who haven't seen each other in the hustle and bustle of things going on, they're glad to see each other and come down."

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