CHEYENNE – Yes, pancakes are delicious. And finding someone to turn their nose up at free pancakes is probably a difficult task, to say the least.
But the allure of free flapjacks isn’t what makes hundreds of people line up early on a Monday morning for Cheyenne Frontier Days’ 53rd annual pancake breakfast.
It’s getting to witness the mechanical precision with which the hundreds of volunteers from the Kiwanis Club of Cheyenne, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cheyenne Frontier Days Indians Committee and other organizations churn out thousands upon thousands of pancakes, thousands of slices of ham, gallons of coffee and enough syrup to soak every piece of food completely.
The crew that churns out about 100,000 pancakes over a three-day stretch during CFD operates like a fine-tuned machine. There are committees to cook the ham, take care of the batter, make coffee, handle the stoves and pretty much every other task to pull off this culinary feat, said Sam Weinstein, the Kiwanis Club’s pancake breakfast chairman.
“I call it organized chaos,” Weinstein said. “There’s a lot of communications and a lot of organization from all of the club members. We have a lot of older, experienced club members who have been doing this for years.”
When the batter finally hits the griddle just before 7 a.m., the craziness starts up in earnest. But it’s not so much chaos as it is a hectic ballet. The batter crew empties out 50-pound bags of mix to be prepared and filled in dispensers. Pancakes literally fly through the air as cooks flip flapjacks over their heads to the waiting pans of the catchers. Shouts of “hot ham” fill the air as massive bowls full of steaming piles of meat are moved through the open-air kitchen to waiting plates.
Weinstein said everyone has their role and sticks to their lane. He himself is on the ham committee and doesn’t even begin to think about taking a turn at flipping pancakes.
“I’m the breakfast chairman, and even I’m not qualified to flip pancakes,” he said.
Sarah Marotz, 12, was on flapjack catching duty Monday morning and was having a good run of it. By 7:45 a.m., she had only failed to catch a handful of errant tosses from one of the cooks.
Since this was her second year catching pancakes on a large, foil-lined pan, Sarah said she came into this year’s breakfast a seasoned veteran.
“The hardest part is when they throw them really wonky and you don’t know where to go to catch them,” she said. “It’s a lot better once you do it for awhile.”
The breakfast relies on volunteers like Sarah, who is in her sixth year of volunteering with her Girl Scout troop. It’s one of the things that makes the breakfast so special, said Glenn Crock, a member of the Kiwanis Club, who was taking part in his 23rd breakfast.
“It’s a great big community project. It’s the best thing we’ve got going for advertising Cheyenne and Kiwanis to the United States and the world,” Crock said. “We tell the new people: ‘For goodness sake’s have fun.’ If you don’t have fun, volunteer organizations just aren’t that good.”
All that organization, preparations and good times produces something everyone who waited in line seemed to enjoy – a piping hot breakfast in the midst of the biggest outdoor rodeo in the country.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. Never. This runs so smooth,” said Loretta Halasz, who is in town from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, with her husband and friends for the rodeo.
She and her husband, Ed, have been to the rodeo once before and decided to make a trip back after about a 10-year hiatus. And, of course, they had to come by for some more pancakes, since they were in town.
“We don’t have anything like this back in Michigan,” Ed Halasz said. “This is amazing.”