by Mary Fuson-Stearley
The batter hit the grill early Saturday morning to kick off the annual Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at the Wabash County Fairgrounds. The fundraising event drew a crowd of 1,000 people, packing the 4-H building wall-to-wall with pancake enthusiasts looking to support local community activities such as Wabash County Schools Reading Program and Special Olympics. Old and young gathered to enjoy a hearty breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and juice while watching the inaugural pancake-eating contest.
Jordan Tandy, Pancake Day committee chair, was pleased with the turn out and the amount of money raised. Wabash County has enjoyed the Pancake Breakfast for years, but the introduction of the pancake-eating contest was what really drew the masses March 8.
Three competitions brought together familiar faces from around the community. To kick off the competitions at 10:30 a.m. was a bout between Northfield and Southwood football teams. Four boys from each team were invited to compete in the mad dash to consume as many pancakes as possible in a matter of 3 minutes. A quiet hush fell over the crowd as the stopwatch started and the boys dug into their plates. As the time ticked on, it became apparent that each individual had his own unique strategy for consumption. For example, one boy from Southwood adopted a chipmunk-style food storage system with his cheeks, while others had a special tearing technique that allowed them to better consolidate the surface area of each pancake being consumed.
As the final seconds passed and the contest came to a close, Southwood left Northfield’s football team in the dust by a whopping 9 pancake margin, with a final pancake count of 28 to 19. This was an embarrassing loss indeed for Northfield as they go back to the playbooks in preparation for next year’s competition.
Competitors in the second group were the classic rivals: police vs. fire. Tensions ran high and the faces of the brave men were stern as they entered the eating arena. The police approached their plates to the classic song “Bad Boys,” heard on the hit reality television show “Cops” while the firefighters valiantly greeted the crowd with the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. The crowd seemed to be divided in their support for their local heroes. The families and friends of the participating men seemed to surround the tables as they shoveled mass amounts of pancakes into their mouths for 3 minutes straight.
The techniques of the first competition were eerily similar to those of the second. Many men in the second competition implemented a seemingly successful folding technique in their eating battle. Though both teams brought skill and valor to the table, the police slid by, beating the firefighters 28 to 25. This loss will surely ignite the firefighters’ desire for victory in the year to come.
The 3rd and final contest brought a close to the competitive eating games. It was the now infamous Open Division. This particular group included an array of unique personalities from the local community, allowing them to publically show what they are truly made of: brains, brawn, and batter.
The open competition was truly an exhibition of sheer skill and crowd-pleasing pragmatism.
“Bringing enthusiasm and energy to an event is important to its success,” said Clint Kugler, CEO of the Wabash County YMCA. “It also helps to come with class and style.”
In this instance, Kugler’s “class and style” came in the form of a baby blue leisure suit nicely paired with Wabash City Schools Superintendent Jason Callahan’s bright orange leisure suit, making a clever reference to the hit movie “Dumb and Dumber.” Many speculate that Kugler’s success in the competition was directly correlated with his distracting sense of fashion. Other competitors came dressed as their heroes: Wayne Denger as Elvis, Patrick Sullivan as “America,” and Chris Newport as Michael Jackson.
Fine examples of skill and pancake proficiency were displayed in the competitors’ well-researched methods for devouring optimal amounts of pancake in pursuit of victory.
When asked what his secret to success was, Wellbrooke General Manager Chris Newport replied, “Slow and steady wins the race,” (which, oddly, resulted in a fairly average score on his behalf.) Newport, along with others, implemented the brilliant strategy of watering down the pancakes, making them far easier to ingest. The ingenuity did not stop there. In addition to his style, Clint Kugler brought a homemade concoction of syrup and water, creating the desired consistency for his consumption.
As the opponents battled it out in the allotted 3-minute time frame, the crowd waited with baited breath for the results. The outcome was definitely impressive: Clint Kugler tied with J.P. Hall for third place with 10 pancakes, Brooks Flohr proudly stepped into second place with 11 pancakes. The winner, Mayor Vanlandingham, consumed an amazing 13 pancakes, winning the competition… until he was quickly disqualified. A surprising twist in the competition, it was later revealed by announcer Wade Weaver that there was a classic case of dirty politics. Apparently, a bribe had been made with a pancake artist to supply Mayor Vanlandingham with his favorite silver dollar-sized pancakes, the kind he usually gets with his senior citizen discount. This development happily bumped editors, Eric Stearley and Joe Slacian of The Paper and The Plain Dealer, respectively, into third place for a tie.
The crowd went wild, crowing their new hero, Brooks Flohr, champion and King of the Pancakes! His fellow competitor and wife, Christine Flohr, stood up with a glimmer of pride in her eyes and happily congratulated her husband on his victory. Wabash can now rest peacefully, knowing that a deserving soul now reins over the celebratory Kiwanis Pancake Day as the first ever King of the Pancakes.
A sense of community and service to others is what truly builds strong foundations for happiness and prosperity within a society. The evidence of this was clear when witnessing the success of the event.
Chris Newport attested to the this success, stating, “I really enjoyed watching the Wabash community rally together in such a strong way for a good cause.”
A sense of humor, and willingness to light-heartedly compete alongside friends and strangers made the experience memorable to those who witnessed.
“It was an honor to chomp pancakes alongside of some of the great leaders of Wabash,” stated Kugler.
The strong presence of community members, with their warm enthusiasm was, indeed, the perfect recipe for a great breakfast feast.