CHARLES TOWN – Filling up on sweet, rich pancakes the day before Lenten deprivations kick in is a widespread tradition, but here there’s an added reason to dig in come Tuesday: Chowing down helps out the local fire company.
Every Shrove Tuesday since 1960, community members have turned out to enjoy pancakes, with all the proceeds going to Charles Town’s all-volunteer Citizens Fire Company.
“Everything is made fresh on site,” explains Daniel Fritsch, the fire company’s assistant chief, who will be there Tuesday when the cooking begins hours before dawn.
At 6 a.m., volunteers will open the doors to the fire company at 245 Citizens Way so that hungry patrons can fill their plates not only with pancakes, but whole hog sausage, just-made sausage gravy and scrambled eggs. Coffee, sweet tea and orange juice also are served. Adults pay $8 for the all-you-can-eat meal while children ages 6 to 12 pay half that and young kids eat for free.
The money generated during the daylong event raises thousands each year for the fire company, making Pancake Day by far the organization’s biggest fundraiser.
By the time Pancake Day wraps up at 7 p.m., Citizens will have gone through some 1,300 pounds of sausage, 15 gallons of pancake syrup, 120 dozen eggs, 125 gallons of milk, 50 gallons of orange juice and 13 pounds of coffee, Fritsch said. Cleaning up after doors close takes another two hours.
“It’s a long day,” explains firefighter Bryan Lavallee, who for the fourth year is serving as the coordinator of Pancake Day.
But thanks to plenty of volunteers, Pancake Day also delivers a good time – for those coming to eat as well as those toiling as cooks and servers, Lavallee said.
“By dinnertime, the line goes out the front door but we keep it moving,” he said. “It takes only 20 minutes to get served even when the rush is at its peak.”
Preparations for the fundraiser kicked into high gear about two months ago and on Saturday, volunteers will spend hours setting up tables and completing other tasks necessary to get ready to feed 2,500 in a single day.
Local businesses also lend a hand by donating butter and other needed supplies, he said.
Lavallee said the menu hasn’t changed much over the years, though a pancake toppings bar with candy sprinkles and other kid-friendly treats was added a few years ago.
The event moved to its current location more than a decade ago when the fire company left its downtown site on West Street for a larger campus on Citizens Way off the U.S. 340 Bypass.
But whether in town or out, Pancake Day has continued to grow, and Fritsch said he and the other volunteers are grateful the community has never cooled on hotcakes: “The support we receive on Pancake Day from the citizens of Jefferson County is greatly appreciated.”