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Tasty fare at the fair
Midway visitors enjoy tradition of pancakes, sausage meal
Robert and Martha Ann Tanner share pancakes with granddaughter Ava Waid, 1, in the Pancake House Thursday during the 2012 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

People come to the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair for a variety of reasons.
Some like the  thrill of the midway. Others enjoy agricultural exhibits and livestock shows, and still others enjoy the games of chance and entertainment.
Many, however, come for one reason unique to the fair in Statesboro — the pancakes and sausage.
Forget deep-fried Twinkies and funnel cakes. People tell Statesboro Kiwanis Club members the pancakes and sausage are the main reason they come to the fair, longtime member Don Whaley said.
The club opened the Pancake House years ago, in the mid-1960s,  when member Marion Brantley suggested merging the club's smaller pancake breakfast sales into one large week-long event at the fair.
"The club used to hold pancake breakfasts (at different area restaurants) to raise funds and Marion suggested doing it at the fair,” Whaley said.
A plaque honoring Brantley rests at the font of the Kiwanis Pancake House roof.
Lines form outside the serving windows and tables are filled with couples, large families and hungry children as Kiwanis members and volunteers work in a whirlwind of activity inside. Plates of steaming hot pancakes and fresh link sausage fly out the serving windows, and rivers of syrup flow.
Inside, members mix gallons of batter, ladle out thousands of pancakes, fry miles of sausage and make countless memories, Whaley said. Volunteers take shifts and work like well-oiled machines as they churn out the plates.
Whaley took over organization of the Pancake House in 2001 after serving two years as fair chairman.
"It is quite a challenge, but what makes it easier are the people who work in here," he said.
At least 10 volunteers are needed nightly, but Whaley said there are usually more than a dozen people helping mix, flip, fry and serve.
Every year, he said, there are people who ask at the gates if they can just come in for a plate of pancakes and sausage.
“A lot of older people don't go out (on the midway) and ride," he said. "They wouldn't even come if not for the pancakes."
Club member Ricky Helton said he has been helping with  the Pancake House for about 15 years.
Helton was key in helping the club find a new sausage vendor in recent years when Lanier's Meats in Twin City closed.
"We had a taste test looking for vendors, and Mike's Meats (in Claxton) ended up winning," he said.
Aside from the fun of helping in the Pancake House,  club members get the satisfaction of knowing money is being raised to give back to the community. The admission isn't the only way the club raises money for donations to a host of local charities. The Pancake House proceeds are added to that as well.
"The fun they have in here is something else," Whaley said. "Joking, laughing with one another -- there's no drudgery about it."
If the pancakes sold during fair week were lined up, they would stretch 3½  miles, he said. And about 2,400 pounds of sausage are sold each year.
"It's tradition to eat here," said Ashton Sullivan, dining with her husband of two months on plates of Southern comfort food. "I've come here since I was a little girl. I enjoy the food, and it's my favorite part of the fair."
Husband Blaine agreed. He graduated from Georgia Southern University last year, and that's where the couple met, he said.
They'll move to Alabama soon, but each agreed it likely won't be too far to drive back to Statesboro each fall for a plate full of soft, fluffy pancakes and mouthwatering sausage.

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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