Annual Father’s Day Pancake Breakfast means so much
By Lori Ruhlman
When something like a pancake breakfast thrives for 50 years in a community, it is natural to ask “why?”
Why do thousands of people, year after year, fit a Sunday breakfast of pancakes and eggs into their Father’s Day plans?
And why do 200 + people choose to work to make it happen? They rise before dawn to crack, flip, scrub, brew, pour, smile, stir, serve, and clean. They hang banners, count change, play instruments, fill balloons, pick up trash, unfold and fold tables and chairs.
Why? We asked Rotarians what they love about the pancake breakfast.
Mary Giroux, president, Skaneateles Rotary Club, is newer to the tradition, having joined Rotary three years ago.
“I love the excitement of it,” Giroux said. “There is much anticipation and preparation among all of our members from our youngest to our oldest. Welwork together: generations enjoying themselves and each other.”
Giroux’s first Rotary Father’s Day Pancake Breakfast was in 2009 when she started playing with the community band. Trumpet in hand, she marveled to see so many local residents show up in one place.
Since joining and beginning to help manage the breakfast, she has learned just how massive the effort really is: from the Rotary family members to the scores of others who volunteer year after year. (Individuals, firefighters, boy scouts … to name a few). “I like the sense of community it imparts,” she said.
Lee Bennett, longtime chair of the Rotary Youth Exchange Committee, has been working the breakfast for 25 years. He loves “the coming together of the community to volunteer, eat and celebrate.” Each year he recruits scores of former exchange students and their families to help serve. His job: “sausages. 25 years and still on sausages.” That is a lot of sausage.
Chuck O’Neil, former club president who has chaired the breakfast, joined Rotary after moving to Skaneateles in 2007. He loves the tradition.
“The pancake breakfast is annually the largest attended event in our community. To witness so many family members, neighbors and friends, happily gathered together, some coming from very long distances to reconnect with fathers, loved ones and old friends, while enjoying a meal together, is heartwarming. It has become a wonderful tradition and it is the highlight event that kicks off our summer here in our beautiful village. And, of course, not only is it a fun event to attend, but it is an activity that also raises a lot of money for many worthy causes in our community.”
Carolyn Legg, a pancake breakfast community volunteer, remembers attending the very first breakfast at age 8 and getting a ride on one of the planes. As she recalls, the cost of the ride was “a penny a pound” and at the time she was amazed that the cost combined for her and her brother Steve, age 7 and her brother Tim, age 5 totaled less than the cost for her father to ride the plane. “We thought that was so funny.” She loves now being on the team that makes the breakfast happen.
Karen Price, a Rotarian who heads up the high school’s Interact Club (Rotary sponsored), loves being with the students who fill more than 700 balloons (to decorate and to sell). As people stream by, she sees them all. “It is such a wonderful reunion,” she said. “It is a community gathering … all day long hugging alumni who stop by – or who jump in to help.”
Ward Vuillemot, who is known as “Mr. Rotary” because of his devotion, has been part of the club and the breakfast for 34 years. He loves the tradition. He also adds this tidbit:
“About 30 years ago, a trove of trading banners were discovered in a filing cabinet in the basement of True Value. A bit of airing out and assembling resulted in several hundred more banners from around the world, collected by Rotarians over the past 60 to 80 years.” These are now displayed to the community at the breakfast. “This is the largest collection displayed in CNY, and perhaps the NE,” he said.
The collection of banners, showing connections between Skaneateles and friends around the globe, greet all visitors to the breakfast. The banners illustrate another reason Club President Giroux loves Rotary: “In addition to all of the community service projects, Rotary has a strong international component: from youth exchange to Books for the World and Polio Plus,” she said.
Helping coordinate the breakfast and being president of the Rotary Club so soon after joining (and moving here) gave Giroux a fast-track way to “know all the club does and what is involved. It helped me integrate into the club and the community. Skaneateles is a very welcoming community,” she said.
And that is part of what everyone loves about the breakfast. It is Skaneateles. It is home.
Fathers Day Pancake Breakfast Sunday, June 17
The Skaneateles Rotary Club will hold its 50th Annual Father’s Day Pancake Breakfast at the Allyn Arena Sunday June 17, from 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., with special festivities to celebrate the anniversary.
The Father’s Day Pancake Breakfast is an annual family/community event serving up all-you-can-eat pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages, orange juice, milk and coffee. Guests enjoy listening to the community band while having a great time with dad, family members and friends. There will be special surprise appearances this year as Skaneateles celebrates the 50th year of the breakfast.
Each year, approximately $12,000 is donated to community programs such as Youth Exchange, several food pantries and local charities. Funds also support many on-going community service projects and improvements like the Rotary Pavilion constructed at the Town Conservation Area, the renovations of the public restrooms under the park gazebo, and the updated ball field backstop, fences and playground at Austin Park.
Tickets may be purchased from any Rotarian, at TOPS, M&T Bank and other local merchants, or at the door. Adults, $7; Children 12 and under $4; and 5 and under free.