ST. CLOUD -- Friday nights during Lent at St. Anthony Church in St. Cloud have become synonymous with fish fries. The church started hosting the Friday night fundraiser in 2007 as a way to pay off the church's debt.

Volunteers like Ana Stockinger spend hours preparing for the large number of hungry guests that all come for one thing, the fish.

The fillets are cleaned and breaded on Thursday before they head to the fryers on Friday afternoon.  The recipe is kept under tight lip. "It's a secret," laughs Stockinger.

About 20 to 35 volunteers help out on any given Friday setting tables, cleaning fish and preparing side dishes.

The fish is served with au gratin potatoes,vegetarian style baked beans, coleslaw and a dinner roll.

Each fish fry draws about 350 people with lines that sometimes go passed the ticket table by the front entrance.

"When a lot of us here were youngsters we didn't eat meat at all on Friday all year round. And then they reduced it to just being lent and I believe we observed it in advent as well," says Stockinger.

It's a tradition that has been passed on for many generations. Danielle Dinnebier is a fish fry regular and long time Lent participant. She says she hopes her toddler likes fish because he'll have to get used to it eating it.

Students from St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton School and other local private schools volunteer at the dinner by passing out beverages, cleaning tables and assisting the elderly and those in need.

Amanda Heinen started volunteering a few years ago for confirmation. It's something she has continued to do over the years and has recruited her brother Daniel Heinen to help as well.

Amanda Heinen says it's a good way to meet people, "you get to meet a lot of different people. ..both working with them...and when you see them around town. It's a lot of fun."

Stockinger says you can eat until you're full but they don't want to promote the concept of "all you can eat." She says that idea goes against what the tradition of Lent stands for.

The St. Anthony Fish Fry runs each Friday through Lent except on Good Friday.