5 reasons to attend the upcoming Cahaba River Society Fry-Down at Railroad Park on September 30

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La’Tanya Scott of the Cahaba River Society with students from the CLEAN outdoor nature education program. Photo courtesy of the Cahaba River Society

“It’s Earth Day in the Fall with catfish.” That’s how supporters describe the annual Cahaba River Society Fry-Down, one of the state of Alabama’s largest catfish cook-offs and festivals, held on September 30, Noon to 4:00pm at Railroad Park.

For a $20 ticket (kids 12 and under are free), you get to eat catfish cooked all kind of ways and sides prepared by competing “fry teams” from local businesses, churches, and community groups while you enjoy a carnival atmosphere at Railroad Park, with live music, a climbing wall, hula-hoopers, belly dancers, face-painters, balloon artists, kids’ crafts, wildlife demonstrations, and a selection of craft beers and signature cocktails.

And that just scratches the surface.

Check out 5 reasons to attend the Cahaba River Society Fry-Down.

1. It is a family-friendly event. Just ask the Girl Scouts

The Fry Team from the Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama prepares for the 2016 Fry-Down. They will return this year for the third year in a row. Photo courtesy of Cahaba River Society.

Along with FREE admission and food for children 12 and under, and all the games and activities which are also FREE, one of the Fry Teams is a local Birmingham Girl Scout troop. That’s right, the Girl Scouts have an entry in this year’s Fry-Down. Wonder if they will slip some shortbread cookie crumbles into the catfish batter? Come by their booth and get the 4-1-1 on their secret ingredients.

2. 37,000 served and counting. Fry-Down and the Cahaba River Society CLEAN program

Monies raised from this year’s Fry-Down supports the Cahaba River Society’s award winning CLEAN program. Founded in 1996, the CLEAN program provides Cahaba stream walks, canoe trips, and outdoor nature classroom programs that connect 3rd -12th grade youth and college students with the River. Over 37,000 students and teachers have participated in CLEAN, which is raising the next generation of water stewards and opening doors to environmental careers. In the 2018/19 school year, Cahaba River Society expects to get an additional 1,900 more people on the river.

3. Protecting the drinking water for 600,000 residents in the Birmingham metro area

Cahaba River Society Conservation Director Dr. Randall Haddock. Photo courtesy of Cahaba River Society

Do you know where your drinking water comes from?

The Cahaba River is a main drinking water source for the 600,000+ customers of the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) and currently the sole source of water for “over the mountain” suburban residents. Imagine filling up all the seats in Birmingham’s Legion Field (60,000 capacity) 10 times. That’s how many people depend on the Cahaba for fresh, clean drinking water. The Cahaba River Society has been the guardian of the river for over 30 years. They are presently working with the BWWB to protect more than 4,000 acres around Lake Purdy, the Cahaba River and its tributaries to permanently insure our drinking water is safe.

Cahaba River Society is committed to clean water. That even means sometimes opposing projects such as the proposed Cahaba Beach Road and Bridge off U.S. 280, which will damage the Little Cahaba River and surrounding forests that protect our drinking water that comes from Lake Purdy. Along with numerous residents and organizations, Cahaba River Society has joined opposition for the project–the first one that Cahaba River Society has opposed in 15 years. Learn more and see a short film at www.savethecahaba.org.

4. Help restore the Cahaba River and the forests that surround it

Exploring the Cahaba lilies in nearby Bibb County. Photo courtesy of the Cahaba River Society

While we enjoy the benefits of growth in our communities, the increased storm runoff from the loss of forests and added paving and roofs has been eroding the Cahaba and its creeks, filling it with mud pollution, destroying wildlife habitat and increasing costs to clean up our drinking water. Cahaba River Society is the leading organization working collaboratively with developers and cities to build better with green infrastructure, to keep the Cahaba healthy.

Another program the Cahaba River Society Fry-Down supports is the organization’s volunteer stewardship program. Along with removing trash from the river and riverbanks, over 700 volunteers over the past 2 years have removed destructive invasive plants and replanted riverside forests with natives raised from Cahaba-sourced seed. These efforts also protect the river’s most famous symbol, the Cahaba Lily.

5. Fierce Fry-Down competition

Vulcan Materials employee dishing out some fried catfish. Photo courtesy of Cahaba River Society.

And finally, the fifth reason you need to attend the 9th Annual Cahaba River Society Fry-Down at Railroad Park is competition among the Fry Teams. Joining the Girl Scouts, are groups from all over town. They include Fry Teams from, AMEREX, International Expeditions, Vulcan Materials, Samford University, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Talk 99.5, Naphcare, Spire Energy, Lhoist, and Cayenne Creative.

Moreover, if you have a team that would like to compete, make a request by Friday Sept. 21 – these teams will take on all comers.

Don’t miss the Cahaba River Society Fry-Down on Sunday, September 30

Birmingham’s Earth Day in the Fall, don’t miss this special event on Sunday, September 30th at Railroad Park, rain or shine.

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Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.