The Kutztown Lions Club offered a behind the scenes look at the magic of the potato and how their famous Dutch Fries help the community.
“The magic of the potato for us is you take a product and we turn it into a community action,” said Kutztown Lion Bob Watrous.
Lions Club projects include a Welcome sign at the park, improvements at Kutztown Park, helping police with AEDs and vision programs, to name a few.
“That all comes from the potato,” he said. “People say, ‘You’re just making Dutch Fries.’ That’s where it all starts but we take the potato and we turn it into a community benefit, which, to me, makes it magic.”
Watrous led The Patriot on a tour of the Kutztown Lions Club fair stand during the Kutztown Folk Festival, which is also open in August for the Kutztown Fair. The stand is their major fundraising source.
“You can see how we make our community project funds through the magic of the potato,” said Watrous, pointing out the bags of potatoes piled high and then to the automated equipment that helps them keep up with demand.
“The efficiency of the kitchen and how we serve things is a way for us to keep funds generated so we can make the money to serve our community,” said Watrous. “All the money we raise goes back into the community.”
The club raises about $10,000 a year that is given back to the Kutztown community.
“This is what we do. And, obviously, you can tell by the people here that we’re having a good time doing this,” said Watrous.
The potatoes are first placed whole in an automated peeler which shoots out the clean potatoes into a water bath to reduce the starch content, one of the secrets to making the best Dutch Fries. The other secret to a crispy Dutch Fry is frying the potato slices in peanut oil. Note, there are allergy warning signs posted on the stand.
Then, after their bath, the potatoes are dumped into an automatic slicer, which shoots the thinly sliced, round fries into another water bath. From there, the fries head to the fryer.
The thin, crispy fried potato is said to be best eaten with a drizzle of vinegar, or simply with lots of salt and a bit of catchup.
“My wife and I do like to put vinegar on them,” said Ron Angstadt, Lions Club stand chairperson. “The local community used to make fried potatoes and they made them a certain way and because we’re in the Pa Dutch region they called them Dutch Fries.”
The stand was crowded by Lions Club members, peeling, slicing, frying and selling Dutch Fries, as well as working the grill for sausage sandwiches and hot dogs.
“It’s all volunteers working all week, nobody’s getting paid except for what they can eat,” said Angstadt.
There are also volunteers behind the scenes, buying materials like napkins, condiments, and paper containers.
The Dutch Fries at the Lions Club stand are what brings Joyce Hohl, Fleetwood, to the Kutztown Folk Festival every year, as well as her granddaughters Rebecca Hohl, 9, and Sarah Hohl, 15, and daughter Leatha Babilon, Boyertown.
“We come every year,” said Babilon. “I’ve been coming since I was their age,” referring to her nieces.
When asked what they like about the Dutch Fries, they all spoke at once, citing the crispiness, salt and flavor as what make them great.
“Nobody makes them like that,” said Babilon.
The Lions Club’s stand at the Kutztown Fairgrounds dates to the 1940s and is open for the Kutztown Folk Festival and Kutztown Fair.