Fishermen’s Breakfast struggles with funding

ST. ANTHONY — For the 59th straight year, hundreds of people stood in a line as long as a football field to socialize and grab breakfast.

But Friday might have been their last free sausage link.

Trina Forbush, 53, has been coming to the Fishermen’s Breakfast since she was a child. When she heard the rumor that the event might not see it’s 60th anniversary, she was saddened.

“I have fond memories coming as a kid; it’s a tradition,” she said. “Even though you have to wait in line forever, it’s about the atmosphere. We think it’s sad; people come from all over.”

The Fishermen’s Breakfast, an annual event that serves free breakfast and marks the unofficial start to the summer fishing season, is a staple in St. Anthony. The event, funded by donations from local businesses, once flourished but is struggling today.

Harry Halkar, a committee member for the Fishermen’s Breakfast, said over the years, small businesses that once donated have been bought out by larger businesses without the local ties. As a result, funding has dried up.

“Boy, it’s tough,” Halkar said. “Everyone is cutting back. The economy is still trying to recover.”

One of the issues, Halkar said, is that new businesses aren’t popping up in St. Anthony. He is seeing the young businessmen leave to set up shop in larger markets.

Dale Cook, 84, has been coming to the Fishermen’s Breakfast longer than he can remember. Cook and his cousin in-law, 89-year-old Charles Rawson, come every year to get a hearty breakfast and see their friends. They don’t want to see the event go away, but if it happens, they have a back up plan.

“If it ends, I’d go fishing,” Rawson said.

Jennifer Maupin, 35, remembered looking forward to the Fishermen’s Breakfast as a child because it meant she got to skip school. She recalled waking up early and running down to get in the long line for her breakfast. Maupin was disheartened to hear Friday’s breakfast might be the last.

“We should all pitch in,” she said. “It’s always been here and it’s part of our little town. We should all donate.”

On Wednesday, Halkar didn’t know whether the money raised would be enough to cover all the food costs. He said the St. Anthony Chamber of Commerce had agreed to cover the balance in a pinch, but forecasting to next year is a little less certain.

“It would be nice to make it to 60 (years),” he said. “I would hate to see it go, but we’ll see what happens.”