Lines of hungry people wrapped around the Statesboro Kiwanis Pancake House Tuesday night as the smell of fresh sausage and fluffy pancakes wafted over the Kiwanis Ogeechee fairgrounds. It was a record night, said long-time Kiwanis member Don Whaley, who has been leading the pancake crew since 2002.
Long lines didn’t seem to deter those hungry for something different besides deep fried Twinkies and hamburgers. “We sold over $9,000 worth,” he said.
The Kiwanis Pancake House is one of many spots at the fair where good food can be found, but it is special for several reasons. It is a major fund raiser for the club, and for many patrons, getting pancakes and sausage at the fair is one of the main reasons they come around.
Each night there is a minimum of 15 club members behind the scenes, flipping pancakes, frying sausage, filling plates, pouring drinks and serving customers. Whaley said the main leadership team consists of himself, long-time members Ricky Helton, Earl Cashon, Barry Turner, and newer members Danny Beall, Joe Rousseau and Lyn Bennett.
“It is fun. I get to meet new people,” Beall said. “I’ve made a few new friends.” He spends his time in the kitchen frying the sausage in a new fryer added this year. “It gets pretty intense,” he said, keeping up with demand. “Sometimes it is hard, but we manage.”
With over a ton of fresh country sausage – procured from Mike’s Meats in Claxton – sold each night, it isn’t hard to imagine the fast pace in the pancake house kitchen. Club members mix and cook enough pancakes nightly to use a dozen 50 pound boxes of pancake mix, too, Whaley said.
Club member Bob Lanier shared the pancake house’s history in an interview in 2008, the year a memorial plaque was placed on the building’s front. It was Lanier’s uncle, Kiwanis charter member Marion Brantley, who came up with the idea to sell pancake and sausage suppers during fair week.
The sign hung nine years ago was a replacement for one hung during the original dedication to Brantley in 1988.
It was 1964, not long after the Statesboro Kiwanis Club began holding its annual fair. He oversaw the responsibility of building, organizing, securing equipment, planning meals, purchasing the food products, requesting donations of various types and opening the pancake house at every fair. “He was the driving force behind the origins of the Pancake House,” Lanier said.
Brantley used his annual two-week vacation each year to prepare the kitchen and other areas of the pancake house. He continued working in the pancake house until his death in 1992.
The structure was renovated this year with a new roof, and improvements made to the kitchen and storage areas, Whaley said.
The Kiwanis Pancake House is often used as a meeting place for fairgoers, most of whom enjoy the “breakfast for dinner” meal, with a choice of maple or cane syrup – freshly made on site at a cane grinding display right next to the dining area.
But it is also a place where club members get to know each other better, work “It is side by side and build relationships, Whaley said.
At $6 a plate – with fresh link sausage and two large pancakes – the meal is a deal as far as faire fare goes. The popularity of the pancake house has not waned over the years.
“It is a benchmark for the fair,” he said. After having led the efforts for over 15 years, he still enjoys the fast pace. “It has been a lot pf fun and educational,” he said. ”We cut up and make jokes – it is more fun than a bee in a tar bucket.”
Cashon agrees. The club members who work in the pancake house “are really great people,” he said. “The camaraderie is great. We get to meet new people and all our friends come by each night. I’ve been working in the pancake house 12 years now.”
The Kiwanis Pancake House opens shortly after gates open each night and closes when the crowds dissipate in the evening. As visitors enter the fairground’s main entrance, the sheltered outdoor dining area is easily seen to the right, near the Heritage Village area.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.