There are few things that can be counted on in life, but for residents of Concord, one of them is Pancake Day.
Mention it to folks who have lived here long enough, and they’ll tell you it’s always the third Thursday in March. The menu is always pancakes, sausage patties, milk and plenty of homegrown Sun Drop and S&D Coffee. They’ll also tell you it always rains on Pancake Day, except for last year.
The annual fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County has a 58-year history, raising around $50,000 during each of the last few years toward club programs.
“It’s allowed us to serve 1,000 kids every year in the summer and after-school programs,” said Valerie Melton, executive director.
Community leaders have always volunteered their time to serve the meals. It’s a common sight to see Sheriff Brad Riley flipping pancakes on one of the griddles lining the gymnasium floor, or Mayor Scott Padgett pouring coffee and Sun Drop to the crowd gathered around him.
“It’s hometown all the way,” said Padgett. “It’s not about the pancakes, by any means. It’s about the community coming together to see each other and visit and obviously to support a very worthy cause.”
The most recent Pancake Day had cars packing the club’s parking lots on Spring Street and overflowing into nearby side streets. The warm aroma of flapjacks and sizzling sausage passed under the noses of everyone in the long line of people that wound down the hall and out of the building.
“I’m 3,238,” said a child to his mother, looking at the numbered Pancake Day sticker a volunteer had pressed onto his shirt. Volunteers unpeel stickers from the roll until they reach number 5,000.
Inside, long tables stretch across the gymnasium. Each one filled with chatting, laughing, hugging people – all catching up from the last time they saw each other. For some, that was at last year’s Pancake Day.
Boys with crates of butter pats walk the aisles, looking to replenish any empty bowls.
No one knows exactly when Pancake Day reached its status as a local holiday.
It could have been when Jimmy Carter wafted through town during his 1975 presidential campaign, shaking hands, kissing babies and, yes, flipping pancakes.
It could have been the time a busload of schoolchildren on their way to Pancake Day rounded a corner at a bad angle, knocking into a fire hydrant that sent a plume of water several feet into the air.
“It was my fault,” said Padgett, then a school principal chaperoning the ride. “I told the driver to turn, and she hit a fire hydrant. It was a crazy sight. We arrived with a lot of fanfare that day.”
It might have been something as simple as the year sausage patties returned to the menu after bacon was given a trial shot as a side.
No one can really pinpoint when it happened, except to say it was before the new Boys & Girls Club building was built in 2002.
“We designed the building with Pancake Day in mind,” said Melton. “I don’t believe any other boys and girls club has a Pancake Batter Room.”
Inside that room, two commercial mixers work tirelessly, swirling thick pasty goop until its last lumps have surrendered.
Padgett hopes to see the tradition of Pancake Day carry on for generations to come.
“It’s such an important part of the identity of this community. I don’t know that there’s anything to compare it, except the Christmas parade or the Concord-Kannapolis football game,” said Padgett. “It’s in that category.”
Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about the Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County, go to www.bgclubcab.org.