ELKHART — They came hungry for crispy fried chicken, tasty mojos and a side of nostalgia.
For the second year, volunteers with the Knights of Columbus cooked up memories for locals longing for the taste of Shakey’s, a popular restaurant that once had two locations in Elkhart. Steve Riikonen, organizer of the annual Shakey’s Night event, said the first year was “hugely successful” and sold out in three days. His team printed more tickets this time around and cooked enough food to feed 1,200 people Saturday, Jan. 25.
“A lot of these people went to Shakey’s growing up and when they were in high school, so they come here and have those experiences again,” said Riikonen, who has been a Knights of Columbus member for eight years.
Restaurants open and close in Elkhart every year, but fond memories of going to Shakey’s stuck with Cyndi Handley, who headed to the restaurant every weekend with her friends when she was a student at Elkhart Memorial High School.
“That was the place to be on Friday nights,” she said. “The food, the pizza, the chicken, the mojos — it was the best.”.
Matt Eppers, a longtime Knights of Columbus member, helped fry more than 1,300 pounds of potatoes and 3,400 pieces of chicken Saturday. He is the son of local Shakey’s owner Joe Eppers.
“We were 12 years old when we started working there and probably made 10,000 pieces of pizza in a year,” he said. “It was a big part of our lives.”
The event is expected to raise $8,000 to help the Knights of Columbus buy food baskets for families during the holidays, fund scholarships for high school seniors and support several local nonprofit organizations.
“The only way we can do that is have fundraisers like this,” Riikonen said.
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.