Yesterday was the 55th annual Pancake Breakfast. It’s what it sounds like: a special meal for our family, but not just that. “Lumberjack Breakfast,” it’s called, is a huge Memorial Day weekend event for our town, where *all* two thousand of us and at least one thousand more relatives get together for a pancake celebration. Breakfast is served from “dawn til noon:” pancakes, bacon, eggs, hash browns, strawberries, apple cider, and coffee.
The first thing you would have noticed if you walked down the street yesterday morning would be a cacophony of old gas engine sounds. Anyone who has an old machine that works well enough to make noise is there. There are pistons and gears, steam and conveyor belts. You can hear the two hay-wagons, one pulled by a tractor and the other by horses, grumbling and plodding down the street. Throughout it all, there’s the sound of bacon and eggs frying, kids playing, and neighbors, family, and friends greeting each other.
There are kids bustling around in 4H outfits, Boyscout uniforms, and aprons who’ve been there since 5 am cracking eggs and setting up. The older kids walk around serving coffee to the crowds of people waiting in line to buy tickets or get their pancakes. Further down the line, the breakfast guys busily fry eggs and flip pancakes, making mickey mouse face ones for little kids. A boyscout walks over from the bacon frying area with a tub of hot bacon ready to be served from the griddle. The bacon is from the town’s meat market, and the strawberries and apple cider are local. You always get more than you can eat, and if not, you can come back for seconds!
The picnic tables are crowded around the redwoods, and on the outskirts of the breakfast scene there’s an antique car show. “Horseless Carriage Club of America,” reads the banner. When you finish eating, you can peruse the stalls put up by those in the women’s club: knick-knacks, homemade children’s clothes, plants with fake flowers stuck in them for decoration, carved gourds, crocheted stuff, things made with broken plate mosaics, jewelry, antiques (seems like most of the stuff is antique anyway), and a bakesale of cupcakes, rice crispy treats, and bunt cakes. The women’s club let me set up a stall to sell jams and jellies and raise awareness about orangutans and deforestation for my nonprofit, Jungleheroes.
If you walk more than 20 feet in any direction while you’re there, you’ll bump into someone you know. It was nice but kind of strange talking with old neighbors and friends, and seeing some who didn’t even recognize me. I got breakfast before I started selling things at my booth, and then I went back for more later as my lunch! I’ve eaten a lot of incredible breakfasts from around the world, so it’s not the food that’s so fantastic. It’s the fact that the whole town contributed to making my breakfast, that like standing in line watching the little kids get all excited, and that I love being able to walk out of line with my plate full of pancakes and sit down anywhere and see a friendly face.
I’m so glad I got to go to Pancake Breakfast yesterday before I leave for the summer and then school. It brought back a lot of memories of Pancake Breakfast sleepovers, bringing my piggy bank to the women’s club stalls to impulsively spend it on some cupcake or old knick-knack, and seeing my town buzzing with activity. When we moved here when I was two, we moved in on Pancake Breakfast weekend, which despite the chaos, was perfect because we got to see the town at its best, working together to make pancakes happen.
The back of the breakfast guys’ shirts say “Lumberjack Breakfast: Over 50 Flippin’ Years!” I hope that some time I’ll be able to come back to see those shirts into the triple digits, remember these days, and share the tradition of town pancakes once again.