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What Says Fall to You?

October 20, 2014


For the past 15 years or so, we have enjoyed a community tradition here in the Shenandoah Valley: cooking for the annual Lion’s Club Pancake Days in Broadway, Va. The tradition goes from 6 a.m. on Friday morning, serving all day through about 7 p.m. that evening, and from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays.

JohnKnepperGravyJohn Knepper stirring his famous and great sausage gravy. Photo courtesy of Dawn Turner.

Folks get up early here in the Valley.

I know families who say their fall wouldn’t be Fall without coming to Pancake Days. This year the Hoover family was there in full force: 15 or so, counting visiting relatives, grandkids, and spouses.

P1060571Husband, Stuart, far right. Can he get the sausages done in time??

But the best part about Pancake Days is actually cooking and serving the meal. (Now the getting ready/cleaning up part is a huge chore but part of the deal.) This year I finally joined the Loins Club with my husband (yes, it is co-ed now, and has been for a number of years) so although I’ve helped in various capacities as a spouse, this year I heard all the pre-planning and negotiation such an effort takes.

Usually the Pancake Days are the same weekend as the local high school’s homecoming game, but due to that being scheduled very early and conflicting with an important Lion Club district/training meeting, the first issue was that we would have to break with tradition and have the fundraiser a different weekend. So we chose one that tied in to the annual Fall Festival–a street craft show and sale event.


Would it be as successful? Would we miss the great influx of pancake eaters right after the town’s homecoming parade?

P1060577Empty sausage pan. 😦

Answer: We ran out of sausage by 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, an hour before we were slated to close at 10. So we had to close early.  It was probably the most successful sale ever. (Final figures are not in yet of course.) To all those who missed out, we are very sorry about that, and will try to plan for it not to happen next year! The sausage of course is the most expensive part of the meal—great little links that are the best ever. The sausage gravy is homemade (no mix, see my version of the recipe here). While some of the food supplies are donated by local businesses, we purchase others. The proceeds from the sale go to help with the sight and hearing projects typical of Lions Clubs, both locally, nationally and internationally. To all who came out, a big huge thank you!

But the best part of Pancake Days is not the cakes, sausage, gravy or coffee, but the camaraderie: learning to know club and community members in deeper ways than you can do by just going to meetings. Service projects—whether they be for church, school or club—are totally the best way to connect and find roots when moving to a new community or seeking new friendships and meaning in an old.

Sure there are always the little controversies about who can flip pancakes fast enough, not making them too far ahead so they’ll be fresh and hot, whether to buy more supplies or fewer, who is a good worker who quickly adapts to whatever work is at hand. You have those kinds of questions and tiffs no matter what service project you are with. Don’t let them spoil the community comradeship.

P1060576Happy customers.

The Broadway Lions Pancake Days even survived changing one huge part of the tradition by transitioning from holding the cookoff in a makeshift tent made of tarps for many years, subject to rain, wind and cold October mornings and evenings. Everyone always said that was part of the fun—and what made the food taste so darn good, like when you are camping. The “tent” was pitched behind a bank in downtown, making it super easy for folks to stop by for a good hot meal after a chilly homecoming parade—before they rushed off to the big game. Those were great days too, but no one seems to mind that we’re now serving in the nearby Fire Department community hall. We’ve maintained one part of the tradition by cooking the cakes on a great old gas griddle in a tarped “kitchen.” And there are inside bathrooms instead of the great Johnny Blues.

tentCooking in the “tent” portion. Photo by Dawn Turner.

But thanks to some good signage around town, and a nice article in the local paper, the sale this year was a huge roaring Lion success. We thank everyone who came out and if you are lucky enough to have a Lion Pancake fundraiser in your community, check it out. Good folks!P1060566Grateful to Blue Ribbon Landscaping in Broadway for a great sign.

My friends dealing with serious sight problems remind me frequently of the precious gift of sight. My own hearing issues (I’ll likely be stone deaf in both ears some day) also echo in my head on dark days. Besides these major club foci, the clubs frequently contribute to other causes.

But a great benefit for all is simply building community in a time when there is so much isolation and individualism.


What makes Fall to you? What is your favorite community or church activity or fundraiser along these lines? I’d love to hear, and what you like about it!





From → Faith, Family Life, Food

  1. Quite a pancake story, but pancakes are not in the mix for us right now, except that I promised grand-boys Curtis and Ian blueberry pancakes the next time we have a sleep-over coming up Saturday. Our financial advisor has invited us to a quesadilla social tomorrow evening. My favorite nominee for our district of the City Council has a chicken and pork BBQ scheduled for early November. Oh, and I brought back more ham loaf from PA last Friday.

    I don’t see a common denominator here menu-wise though there are opportunities to build community. And lots of good eating.

  2. Always fun to hear what a blogger friend is up to. Wonder if your City Council nominee will be doing any of the bbq?!

  3. Athanasia permalink

    Fall is definitely all about the color change here. The trees are just past peak now but we still have a mix of red, orange, yellow, green, brown. In the city the leaves are starting to accumulate along the curbs waiting for the leaf trucks to come and collect them. Out here we have folks that burn and folks that mulch and compost them. We are the latter. We shred them and add them to the gardens and the compost.

    We’re busy, like squirrels, making sure we are stocked up for the winter. We take ritual fall drives to enjoy the scenery, do a bit of visiting, and pick up 100 pound bags of potatoes in one place, 5 lb bags of cranberries in another, quarts of honey, freshly frozen chickens, and soon the Thanksgiving turkey.

    Fall is applesauce making at our house and apple cider making at an uncle’s. Fun days with lots of food and more visiting.

  4. Fall right now is about another road trip. This time to the Midwest — Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. What gorgeous trees and beautiful weather we have had here.

    The pancake breakfast I remember most from our many years in Indiana was the very early one at the Indiana-Michigan Relief Sale. Some mornings we were there before 7 a.m. to beat the crowds. And there was always a row of volunteers with smiling faces behind the griddles.

    • I think if my 90 year old mom could have a road trip she would pick a drive from Ind. to Va. in the fall. I’ve been enjoying your scenery shots, too. 🙂

      I often think of the relief sale breakfasts–Va. certainly has a long line too. The volunteers and community spirit sweetens the fare and the satisfaction stays long after, eh?

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