Board members Chuck Borkoski and Brian Sherin and CEO John Pappalardo were all smiles at Hookers Ball.
By Doreen Leggett
With vats supplied by Tom Smith, Ray Kane swung past lobster traps at Kurt Martin’s house and pulled a big Chatham Fish and Lobster Truck around the back early Saturday, August 6.
Kane, outreach coordinator at the Fishermen’s Alliance, joined other staff members shoveling ice from Martin’s freezer into additional vats that would later hold scallops from Jesse Rose and the F/V Midnight Our, as well as local haddock.
The refrigerated truck then headed to A.R.C. Hatchery in Dennis to pick up thousands of shellfish to offload at the big white tent at the Chatham VFW for the 21st annual Hookers Ball.
That evening more than 400 people, including Martin and his partner Lara, Smith’s family, Jesse and Abby Rose, and representatives from ARC, would drink donated beverages poured by staff from the Red Nun restaurant, eat shellfish shucked by Elwood’s Raw Bar, munch on hors d’oeuvres from Chatham Bars Inn and tacos (and more) from the Dancing Spoon Food truck.
The Fishermen’s Alliance, a non-profit that advocates for the Cape’s small-boat fishermen and healthy ocean, was launched in 1991 by fishermen and has been a part of the community ever since.
That close relationship is always on display at the Hookers Ball, orchestrated by Main Sail Events and Marketing. More than 100 industry members mingled with supporters and sponsors, walking by tables lined with opportunities; dinner and a show at Payomet Performing Arts in Truro, paintings from local artists, whale watches, the list goes on.
The Fund a Need auction also helps support mission-driven programming. Board member Richard Banks, a die-hard recreational clammer, offered himself up for a day and Nauset Marine stepped in with all the gear for a lucky bidder. Banks also took up his regular slot as a volunteer at the fish fry station.
Andy Baler, who has been in the industry close to 40 years, also a Fishermen’s Alliance board member, had a very successful and humorous auction item, offering to name a sushi roll at his BlueFins Sushi and Sake restaurants to a high bidder.
Auctioneer John Terrio joked that CEO of the Fishermen’s Alliance, John Pappalardo, was worried no one would bid on his item – cooking up a seafood tasting in the winner’s home with talk about the Cape’s fisheries. The item was one of the most coveted of the evening.
“Everything we do is so local fishermen can continue to do what they do so well, provide the best protein in the world,” Pappalardo told the cheering crowd.
Some fishermen, in addition to being in the crowd, were on the screen in a video put together by Big Tree Productions.
The video highlighted Fishermen Training, Pier Hosts, and Small Boats, Big Taste.
Graduates of the training program, Mike Van Hoose and Tony Day, were on hand and featured.
Day grew his business after going through the program, and found it “invaluable,” particularly not being from a fishing family.
Meeting captains participating in different fisheries was especially helpful, to find out what day-to-day life is really like.
“One thing that stood out was … their pure love of fishing,” Day said.
Van Hoose, who captains Al Cestaro’s sea clamming boat out of Orleans, hopes to own his own business some day and spoke about the value of safety training.
Mike Anderson, longest-serving pier host, talked about the importance of educating tens of thousands of visitors about commercial fishermen who are landing their catch just below the observation deck.
“People lose track of where their food actually comes from and why,” he said.
Not true at the ball, as attendees tasted both Haddock Chowder and Provencal Fish Stew. Board member Chuck Borkoski joined staff ladling fast and furiously, which bodes well for new wholesale and retail efforts.
Funds generated from the future retail efforts will support the program’s original intent, giving fishermen a consistent, fair price for fish and providing a healthy, delicious meal for food pantries across the state.
More than 1.5 million servings have already gone to people facing food insecurity. Chris Menard, executive director of the Family Pantry of Cape Cod, first partnered with the Fishermen’s Alliance on its Fish for Families initiative. The chowder, and fish stew, is an expansion of that effort.
“It’s a great product, well made and our families really like it,” Menard said in the film. “We really do appreciate the Alliance’s partnership and their community spirit and we’ll have this product forever – as long you guys are making it we’ll be having it.”
Bill Amaru started landing more haddock because the program was launched. “Having control over where your fish ends up is important to a commercial fisherman,” he added.
The ball raised more than $280,000.
“The Cape’s unique culture was forged on our working waterfronts and on the boats of our fishermen,” Pappalardo said. “With your help we want to ensure the Fishermen’s Alliance can continue the important work of advocating for local fishermen, our marine environment and the interests of our Cape community for another 30 years.”