Tri-City photographer John Clement will be eating salmon for lunch and dinner today, just as he has for the 30 years the salmon has been served at Art in the Park in Richland.
The secret sauce and seasoning recipe developed by Dehlia Teeple of Richland, combined with Richland Rod and Gun Club cookers that envelope the fillets in alder wood smoke, is that good.
This year, the Art in the Park concession booth -- a joint effort of the Rod and Gun Club and the Columbia Basin Fly Casters -- is prepared to smoke 350 pounds of purchased salmon fillets.
"It's the exact same marinade and recipe from 1985," said Dale Schielke of the Rod and Gun Club, who is co-chairman for the concession stand.
What started out as a favorite recipe and cooking technique for Rod and Gun Club picnics has become a favorite of visitors to the annual arts show in Howard Amon Park.
"It's awesome every year," said Rick Pyle of Kennewick, who was eating a salmon sandwich for lunch Friday.
The women in his family head out to shop the booths, but he heads straight to the salmon concession stand, he said.
One of the secrets the two clubs will disclose is that the smoke from split and water-doused alder logs is important not just for flavoring.
The smoke drifts over the park and draws hungry people in, said Jerry Zeitler of Pasco, one of the volunteer cooks Friday.
He can tell if the salmon is done when the lid is lifted off the smoky cooker by the look of the salmon, although a thermometer is used to double check.
If the salmon still looks moist and is just starting to flake, they're done, he said.
Business was good Friday, said Dennis Collins of Kennewick, who was serving drinks.
"We had a line clear to that tree for an hour, hour and a half," he said, pointing 20 feet away.
When the two outdoor groups started serving salmon at Art in the Park 30 years ago, dinners were $4. But they've been faced with the escalating cost of salmon through the years. Now the same dinner of about 5 ounces of cooked salmon, coleslaw and a dinner roll costs $11.
They added a lower-cost salmon and coleslaw sandwich to the menu in 1999, which now costs $6. For the first time this year, they also added a chicken dinner for $7.
It was selling well, but it's the salmon that was drawing the repeat customers.
"I'm back again," Lavon Clement announced Friday.
Clement, no relation to John Clement, used to come with his late wife, Jeanne, he said. They'd shop on Friday and stop for a salmon dinner.
Then he'd come back to the park the second day of the show to pick up more salmon dinners, often two for Jeanne so she could stick one in the fridge for the next day.
A longtime Richland resident, he's since remarried and moved to Pasco, but his fondness for the salmon has not changed.
"You can't beat it with that alder smoke," he said.
The money raised will be used by the two outdoors groups for their many projects, events and youth education activities in the Tri-Cities.
They sponsor Washington State Youth Conservation Camp and fishing events for kids at Columbia Park, plus the Salmon in the Classroom program.
They build wood duck nesting boxes and keep live web cams in some of them.
Water guzzlers are maintained to collect water in areas too dry to otherwise support game birds and song birds.
They also collect usable meat from game involved in accidents to donate to the Union Gospel Mission.
Staffing the salmon concession stand takes about 75 volunteers each year.
"It's definitely a major effort, but it's our major fundraiser for the club," Schielke said.
Art in the Park continues from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. There is no admission fee.
-- Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @HanfordNews