The World’s Biggest Fish Fry is a premier event for Paris – Henry County and West Tennessee. The last full week of April annually attracts people locally as well as nationally. Visitors come from across the country to enjoy the festivities.
The whole festival revolves around the “Fish Tent” where by last account over 12,500 pounds of catfish is served with all the trimmings. In addition to all you can eat catfish you will find parades, carnival, rodeos, catfish races, dances, arts and crafts to name a few. Events actually begin early in February with beauty pageants leading up to the week long celebration.
The “Fish Fry” as everyone calls it around here evolved from “Mule Day”, which originated in 1938 with the Paris Post Intelligencer as the first sponsor. Farmers came to town on the first Monday in April to trade their mules and other farm products, do their shopping and enjoy the fellowship of their friends. Early in the 1950’s the Chamber of Commerce took over “Mule Day” complete with a parade and beauty queens. When the tractor began to replace the mules the Chamber of Commerce contemplated another event to replace “Mule Day”.
In 1953, the Chamber of Commerce held the first “Fish Fry”. The event was not as successful as hoped. The fish were not from Kentucky Lake and just didn’t live up to the palates of the fish eating public. The parade was short and the event was held on the high school football field for one day and night.
In 1961 the Paris-Henry County Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) took over the “Fish Fry” from the Chamber of Commerce.
Since 1961 and thanks to the Paris-Henry County Jaycees the festival has grown unbelievably from 1,600 pounds of catfish cooked to over 5 tons of catfish and a two hour grand parade.
The venue of the festival has moved from the court square, then to what was once known as the hitch lot just blocks from the court square, then back to a parking lot downtown and finally to a building at the Henry County Fairgrounds in the early 1980’s. In the early days the fish cooking was done outdoors and eaten on picnic tables under big tents, hence the term “Fish Tent”. It is now known as the Robert E. “Bobby” Cox Memorial Fish Tent.
The Jaycees continue to do a fantastic job organizing the event but also depend on many community volunteers to pull it off each year. The Paris-Henry County Jaycees are still growing the event and offering new and different things resulting in increased attendance, more catfish cooked and served.
The Jaycees and the community invite everyone to visit Paris and Henry County the last full week of April for a week of fun and southern hospitality!