Oodles of noodles: Longtime Elks volunteer gets set for saucy Saturday | Rhody Fest

Posted 5/19/22

The sauce may be the boss, but if you’re looking for the real commander of the kitchen, look no further than Bob Kelvy.

Kelvy is the principal of the pasta, the steward of the sauce, and the …

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Oodles of noodles: Longtime Elks volunteer gets set for saucy Saturday | Rhody Fest

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The sauce may be the boss, but if you’re looking for the real commander of the kitchen, look no further than Bob Kelvy.

Kelvy is the principal of the pasta, the steward of the sauce, and the all-around go-to guy for the Annual Rhody Spaghetti Dinner that’s put on by the Port Townsend Elks Lodge.

The big spaghetti feed, a mainstay of the Rhody Festival, is from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 21 at Lodge No. 317.

Kelvy has been in the Elks Lodge for 24 years, and for about half that time, has helped prepare the annual Rhody spaghetti feed.

The chef’s hat is just one of many he wears for the fraternal organization. Last Easter, for example, he was the Easter Bunny for the outing at Chetzemoka Park.

The kitchen, though, is kind of a comfort zone. Kelvy helps out with the lodge’s veterans dinner, and years ago, before his wife Patricia passed away, did the prime rib dinners at the Elks Club.

“I’m basically an all-around guy, just helping out the lodge,” Kelvy said.

It was his wife, a caterer at the time, who got him cooking. And it was a turn from his regular job as a truck driver (his time behind the wheel includes driving a truck for the OlyCAP food bank program). 

Rhody Fest is still a busy time for him.

A member of the Rakers Car Club, Kelvy will cruise in the grand parade before heading back to the lodge to help feed the hungry masses.

“I’m a busy kind of guy, basically,” he said.

There’s a bit of planning that takes place before noodle meets water and then pasta pairs with sauce.

“You figure out how many meals you’re going to make,” Kelvy explained.

“I’m figuring about 50 people. You break that down into how much tomato sauce to make, how much spaghetti. And the salad and the bread.

“It’s a numbers game,” he said.

But what if more people show up than expected?

“You win some, you lose some,” Kelvy said simply.

The sauce gets started well before the night of the spaghetti dinner.

It needs time to simmer, and simmer good, he said.

“My mother was Italian; she taught me how to make spaghetti sauce the Italian way,” he said.

Anything special in the sauce?

Well, yes, but Kelvy repeats the familiar line that sharing such a secret would mean an unfortunate ending for the one who’s wondering.

Kelvy uses a large cooker to prepare the noodles, big enough for about 50 meals or so.

He figures he’ll cook somewhere between 25 to 30 pounds of spaghetti.

“That’s a lot of spaghetti; it’s amazing how it goes,” he said.

The noodles are done in batches.

“You cook 10 pounds at a time; you don’t do it all at once,” he said.

“Everything’s ready by five,” Kelvy said.

He added he doesn’t want to cook too much, and keeps an eye on the dinner crowd.

“That’s how I control if I have enough spaghetti; if I see the crowd’s not going to be any good, I’m not going to cook any more.”

It’s not a one-man show in the Elks’ kitchen, however. There’s about a half dozen other folks who help out, some on the serving side.

Sometimes, he said, things can get a bit hectic.

“One time you can have a bunch of people come in, then all of sudden, it slacks off.

Then you get another big bounce,” he said.

But that’s nothing to boil over about.

“What I try to do, I try to keep enough on hand in case that does happen,” Kelvy said of his supply of spaghetti.

And, if things start getting low but people keep coming in the door, Kelvy said he can always make more. The number of folks who show up for the dinner isn’t perfectly predictable.

“It’s a word-of-mouth thing, basically,” he said.

But what happens when too many people are talking?

Kelvy admitted there has been a time or two when the food just runs out.

Panic? Never.

“I learned in life not to stress out for anything,” Kelvy said.

“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. That’s just the way life is. You start stressing, then you die,” he said.

“I’m going to be 70 years old in July, so I don’t worry about it.”

Kelvy said he enjoys helping the community and the lodge. The spaghetti dinner brings the community together while also serving as a fundraiser for the lodge and the good works of the Elks, an expansive list that includes programs for kids, scholarships, veterans, and more.

“I get enjoyment out of helping people; that’s my goal in life — helping people,” said Kelvy, a retired Navy electrician and Vietnam War veteran who has been a volunteer fireman in Chimacum and a reserve fire officer in Port Townsend.

“I just hope people come and support the lodge and what we do,” he added.

Port Townsend Elks Lodge No. 317 is at 555 Otto St., Port Townsend, and the benefit spaghetti feed starts at 5 p.m. Saturday. The cost is $12.

Kelvy said he’s looking forward to this year’s Rhody Festival.

“I think it’s going to be a good one this year. People want to get out of the house,” he said.

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