Too Many Rain Clouds Can’t Spoil Catfish Stew

By Margaret B. Sprott
Camden Bureau

ELGIN

A hard rain may ruin a parade and the icing on a cake, but it doesn’t hurt catfish stew.

The rain didn’t spoil the stew for an estimated 6,000 people who attended the Elgin catfish stomp on Saturday after pouring rain kept many stomp goers at home and force town officials to postpone the annual Christmas parade.

“It’s amazing how many people were out there waiting for that parade,” Elgin Mayor Pete James said.

The parade has been rescheduled for 2 PM today, said Margie Howard stomp president.

Many people who arrived in Elgin to watch the parade left town before 12:30 PM, she said.

Miss Howard said she’s invited arts and craft exhibitors to stay until today, and take out orders of catfish they will be sold “if there’s any left.”

The Catfish Stomp was organized in 1975 as a Christmas parade by the Elgins Lions Club. It’s a nonprofit and tax exempt event. Monies raised usually go to the Blaney’s volunteer fire department.

Because of the rain, other activities were moved inside.

Arts and craft exhibit, baked goods and cloggers were moved to the Blaney Elementary School gymnasium. Bands that were scheduled to perform a top flatbed trailers between Townhall and the gymnasium played between Town Hall in the gymnasium played next to a fire truck in the Blaney Fire Department. And Santa Claus stood inside the gym handing out Tootsie rolls.

“The word today is improvise,” James said when he announced that the first band of the day, Shannon, was set up and ready to play.

The crowd may not have been as large as it could have been if the sun were shining, but it was much better than James and Mrs. Howard expected.

Both estimated that the attendance would increase as the rain stopped about 1 PM and as predicted more people begin to arrive.

Preparations for the stew began about 11 AM Friday.

The stew was served with fried chicken, coleslaw, fatback and white bread.

Walter Harrell of Elgin who prepared the stew said it took 600 pounds of catfish to make 450 gallons. All of the fish were caught by two local fishermen at nearby watery lake, he said.

“Fatback gives the grease needed for the stew,” Harrell said.

Rice was served with the stew for the first time this year, he said people could eat it with their stew anyway they like, although most of the folks tasting the famed Carolina concoction just poured it in with the stew.

Harrell said he had not heard of the Lowcountry tradition of stirring the stew with a burnt steak, but he said he whittles oka paddles all year long just so he use one to stir the stew.

The recipe is the “official” Catfish stop prescription, said Harrell, who has prepared the stew every year since the stomp was organized in 1975.

“Each part has the same amount of ingredients,” Harrell said as he stirred, “including potatoes, onion, pepper, salt, and Texas Pete.”

Harrell observe that because of the rain “a lot of people are staying at home.”

Last year, about 20,000 people came to the Catfish Stomp in Elgin, a town of about 600 people.

But the women who were serving the stew said,”When they come, they come in droves.”

Neither James nor Miss Howard got much sleep Friday night.

James said his wife got him up at 4 AM to tell him that it was raining. He had gone to bed at 2 AM after help preparing for the festivities.

Miss Howard said she woke up about 5 AM when she heard the rain.

“I cried for a while, then I slept for about 15 minutes and then I had to get up,” she said.

December 4, 1983  State (published as The State)  
Columbia, South Carolina
Page 58
December 4, 1983  State (published as The State)
  Columbia, South Carolina
Page 73

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