Historical re-enactor Charles Dickson regales visitors with the history of Door County and its famous fish boils

[Ellison Bay, WI] — Here in Door County, Wisconsin, they take their history — and their fish boils — seriously.

I’ve come to Rowleys Bay Resort near the northeastern tip of Door County for a real, old-fashioned fish boil — one that comes with its own historical re-enactor.

“A fish boil is where we cook the fish, potatoes and onions outside on the fire, and at the end of the cooking time, we do a boilover,” explains Jewel Peterson Ouradnik, the resort’s owner. “What we do is we intensify the heat of the fire by putting fuel oil on the fire. The fire then boils over, so the oils come off the top, and then we pull the fish out.”

At its flashpoint, the boilover becomes a raging inferno. Flames surround the cast-iron cooking kettle and shoot skyward for a few brief moments until the kerosene burns off. Most impressive.

The tradition of fish boils originated with Door County’s first European settlers. Whitefish were plentiful in the cold waters of Lake Michigan, and a boil was a simple and economical way to feed hungry families.

“Fish boils started when the Norwegians and the Swedes came to this country from the old country,” explains Charles Dickson, the historical re-enactor who plays the part of Peter Rowley, one of the original settlers who came to what is now known as Rowleys Bay in 1840.

“When they would come in with their catch,” Dickson continues, “they’d come to the shore and all the people would come down to see how big a catch and so forth. The Norwegians were a happy bunch, and they just invited everybody to come and eat.”

Nowadays, fish boils are a Door County tradition, along with Door County cherry pie (more about that in an upcoming post). Rowleys Bay Resort offers their traditional boils, complete with storyteller, on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday nights, part of the resort’s all-you-can-eat buffet. Show up at 4:30; they’ll ring the dinner bell when the fish is ready!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Rowleys Bay Resort

1041 County Road ZZ

Ellison Bay, WI 54210

(800) 999-2466

www.rowleysbayresort.com

Door County tourism information: www.doorcounty.com

(800) 52-RELAX

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Historical re-enactor Charles Dickson regales visitors with the history of Door County's famous fish boils

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About Glen Abbott
Glen Abbott is a Florida-based travel writer & photographer. He specializes in writing about motorcycle touring and travel, and his work appears regularly in Harley-Davidson's HOG magazine, American Iron, and other publications.

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7 Comments
  1. Grace

    July 17, 2012

    What is it served with? Is that red meat sauce on the side? Nomz

    • Travelin' Gringo

      July 17, 2012

      Grace, this particular fish boil comes with an all-you-can-eat buffet (so what you’re seeing in the photo are meatballs and red sauce), but not all fish boils come with those extras.

  2. Luis Perez

    July 14, 2012

    OK now I’m hungry again! lol

  3. PauloChagas

    July 14, 2012

    Congratulation. Fant√°stico Story.I Read thisstory in Hog Magazine in Brasil.

  4. inka

    July 14, 2012

    What a super fantastic story. A scene so to my liking, dramatic, odd characters, history and great food thrown in.
    inka recently posted..Upcoming summer trips: Turkey, Oman and Jordan

  5. Maggie

    July 13, 2012

    Nice job with the pics!! Can’t wait to try it.

  6. MIchell Haase

    July 13, 2012

    Great story and excellent photos, as usual! So glad that you got to experience a fish boil! They are a blast!!!

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