The sweet smell of fry bread wafted down the sidewalk in Old Town Kenai Friday as a steady stream of people walked into Fort Kenay for their monthly fix of the sugary pastry.
It has been more than year since the enterprising volunteers at began luring in passersby with the promise of sweet fry bread and succulent pirozhki in the kitchen at Fort Kenay and by all accounts, the fundraiser has been a success.
“We raised about $5,000 last year,” said volunteer Dorothy Gray.
Inside the kitchen, above the din of voices, Lydia Pollard sweats above the stove — pausing occasionally to adjust the paisley bandana holding her back her hair.
She’s full of jokes.
“I hear juvenile delinquents,” she shouts as Kaydence Monti and Kash Bishop walk through the door. “Oh that little girl can put away the fry bread.”
The two know what they want and they walk right up to the counter to get it — Bishop, 3, can barely see into the kitchen but reaches his arm up to get at the sweet bread anyway.
Gray smiled at Bishop’s chubby fingers waving in the air as she handed two pieces of the bread, fresh off of the stove, to the waiting children and said, “Sugar?”
The traditional pastry can sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon; butter and honey are also available. They sell $2 for one or $5 for three.
Proceeds from the bake sale benefit the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church which sits across the street from Fort Kenay and is a frequently visited tourist attraction year round —weekly services are also held at the church.
Father Thomas Andrew, rector at the church, said money was being raised for a fire suppression system at the church.
Gray estimated last year that the fire system would cost about $50,000.
She said it was needed to protect the church’s icons.
During the off-season, Fry Bread Fridays happen once a month, but during the tourism season the group hosts one each week.
Gray said sightseers in Old Town often wander by the building.
“They’ll see our sign and some will say, ‘What is fry bread?’ So, usually one of us is out there with a platter with little cut up pieces so they can try it. It’s our little teaser,” she said.
Also available are beef or salmon pirozhki, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, whole wheat bread, Russian tea cakes, coffee, brownies and a whole host of trinkets.
The crowd Friday was a mixture of new customers and those who had their routine down like Mary Lou Bottorf.
“Fry bread Friday,” Bottorf shouted as she walked through the heavy wooden front door.
“Mary Lou, how are you?” yelled Pollard in response.
The two shared a laugh as Bottorf loaded up on treats.
“I like to come in and bother everyone,” Bottorf said. “I know these people, they’re my friends.”
Others like Ann Evans were easily assimilated into the happy chaos of the kitchen.
“How many scoops should I put in?” said Pat “Juney” Mullan, another volunteer who stood near the ordering counter with a coffee container as he prepared to brew a fresh pot.
“I told him two scoops,” Evans said as she and a companion browsed the tables of sale items while eating their food.
“It’s my first time here,” said the Sterling resident. “We were driving around sight-seeing and saw the sign. It’s excellent, very tasty.”