Rotary continues tradition of Sunday pancakes for Carnival

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Enjoying the traditional Rotary Winter Carnival pancake breakfast at the Whitefish Lake Restaurant in 1986 were former carnival organizer Arnold Jacobsen and his wife Lucille. (Pilot file photo)

Members of the Rotary Club of Whitefish spend the Sunday morning each year of Whitefish Winter Carnival flipping pancakes.

It appears as though the tradition of a Sunday morning breakfast feast began with the first Whitefish Winter Carnival in 1960. Though there may have been a few different hosts in the early years, for the last several decades the Rotary Club has been carrying on the tradition of mixing batter, running the grill and serving up pancakes to the community.

The first mention of the Rotary Club hosting the breakfast in the Pilot appears to have occurred in 1981, though members of the club say they were likely serving pancakes years before.

Linn Akey remembers standing in Russ Street’s garage in the 1970s helping him prepare sausages for the breakfast.

“The whole idea of it was to reach out into the community,” Akey said. “We only made a minimal amount on it. We never recouped our costs.”

This year’s event is on Sunday, Feb. 4 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Moose Lodge. Tickets are $8.

Rotarian AJ Spear has organized the breakfast for the last half dozen or so years, and says it remains much the same.

“We’ve always treated it as a community event,” he said. “There is tickets, but that’s just to cover the cost.”

About 30 volunteers help put on the breakfast in two shifts — early and late morning. This will be the third year that the Whitefish High School Honor Society has volunteered at the breakfast.

Today about 200 to 250 people are served throughout the morning. Though in 1984 the Pilot estimated that between 800 and 1,000 people were fed.

Though whether it was connected with the Rotary Club or another organization, the Sunday pancake breakfast appears to be a long tradition of the 59th annual Winter Carnival. The location has shifted through the years moving from the Mountain Trails Saddle Club to the Whitefish Lake Golf Course and finally settling at the Moose Lodge.

John “Pete” Petersen helped for many years as a longtime member of Rotary. Petersen, 83, said he couldn’t be sure of the first year of Rotary’s pancake breakfast, but he knew it was started by the same folks who began Winter Carnival and many of who were members of Rotary.

“It was a thing we did every year and it was a lot of fun,” he said. “I cooked the hotcakes for 10 or 20 years — I don’t know how many years. I was a good flipper.”

Petersen recalled many fond memories of mornings coming in to prepare the kitchen at about 6 a.m. after having only gotten home from Winter Carnival events only a few hours before.

“Those were the kind of things that made Winter Carnival work and keeps it working,” he said. “There was a lot of people and lot of organization involved to make it work.”

Petersen fondly recalls one year when John Forsberg’s sourdough mix was left in the kitchen at the golf course overnight to proof.

“It boiled out and covered the whole kitchen floor,” Petersen said. “We had to clean it up before we could start cooking.”

Breakfast includes pancakes, eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, coffee and juice.

The Whitefish Credit Union is sponsoring free breakfast for all veterans and active duty military and their immediate family members. Veterans and military members just need to show their military ID or DD-214.

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