People started lining up at 5 a.m., three hours before serving time, to get a taste of what’s arguably the most popular breakfast in Clark County. Fortunately for Southwest Washington’s restaurateurs, the Fred Meyer Free Pancake Breakfast at the Clark County Fair comes but once a year.
Well before breakfast’s 8 a.m. kickoff, visitors braved the chilly morning air and stood in a line four people wide and hundreds of feet long that snaked through the fairgrounds. Ahead of them, close to 100 volunteers prepped more than 1,500 pounds of dry batter, ran grills, and laid out row after row of margarine, syrup, orange juice and milk containers in preparation for the roughly 3,000 meals that were served, Fred Meyer Community Relations Coordinator Judi Swift said.
“It’s like a well-oiled machine,” she said. “Many of our volunteers have been doing this for years.”
Swift said Fred Meyer stores gave out about 20,000 coupons for the breakfast, which also earned entrants free admission to the fair until noon on Friday, but only about 3,000 people usually turn out.
For many of those loyal eaters, pancakes at the opening day of the fair is a family tradition.
If You Go
• What: Clark County Fair.
• Hours Saturday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
• Where: 17402 N.E. Delfel Road.
• Admission: Adults, $11.25; seniors 62 and older, $9.25; kids 7-12, $8.25; kids 6 and younger, free; parking, $6; C-Tran shuttle, free from six main transfer stations; $1 discount on full gate admission with coupon from shuttle operator. Schedules at www.c-tran.com.
• Carnival: Opens at noon.
• ERS Free Grandstand: Trace Adkins, 7 p.m.
• Pets: Not permitted, except for service animals or those on exhibit or in competition.
• More information: www.clarkcofair.com or call 360-397-6180.
Theresa Anderson and her group of 13 left Orchards at 4:30 a.m. to be the first in line for food. They arrived at about 5 a.m. to claim their spot. They fought off the morning chill with some free coffee and hot chocolate from the breakfast crew.
“One guy always beats us,” she said. “This year we decided he wasn’t going to.”
But the true space at the front of the line was reserved for last year’s first-ever Fantastic Fair Foto Contest winners, Gina Salt and 4-year-old Ryland Fritter. The two of them tied for first place. In addition to first dibs on breakfast, they won free fair admission, ride bracelets, food and milkshake coupons.
Fritter’s grandmother, Jennifer Sanders, said the family has been coming to the fair for 27 years.
“But it’s our first pancake breakfast,” she said, noting they arrived at 6:30 a.m. “We’re excited, though … Ryland’s favorite food is pancakes.”
Breakfast started at 8 a.m., but the line didn’t stop growing. Around 8:15, Aaron and Laura Taylor and their seven children stepped into, what was only momentarily, the back of the line.
After more than 10 years of experience waiting in line for the annual breakfast, they weren’t dismayed at what they anticipated would be an hourlong wait for food, nor did they feel the need to arrive any earlier next year.
“We have seven children; getting them up that early is not a possibility,” Lauren said.
The pancakes are served until 11 a.m. only on opening day. But for those who missed it, there will be plenty of other food to choose from and music, rides, animals and events to keep them busy until the fair closes on Aug. 14.