Sandy Fire's 'pan'-demic hits this weekend
Something comes over the Sandy area the last weekend in April every year.
For the past four decades, locals have emerged from their winter hibernation with a seemingly insatiable need for community interaction, public safety support and pancakes.
Call it the annual Sandy 'pan'-demic.
As with all pandemics, the Sandy Fire District is well-prepared to assist the populous - with the annual Sportsman's Breakfast, which takes place from 5 p.m. Friday, April 25, until noon Saturday, April 26, at the engine bay of the Sandy Fire Station, 17460 Bruns Ave.
During that time, they'll trade their hoses and ladders for plates and spatulas to create the town's only all-night, all-you-can-eat breakfast diner - all in the interest of community building and fund-raising for the district's essential volunteer and explorer programs.
'It's super fun,' Sandy Fire Spokeswoman Alice Lasher said. 'Not only is there an internal competition to see who can be the best cook, but it's fun for the customers to be served by a firefighter. It's an excellent demonstration of the fact that we're public servants.'
About 80 percent of the district's volunteer and paid firefighters - with help from the Sandy Fire Explorers - will flip pancakes, hand out ham and cook eggs any way their hungry customers wish.
For just $4 ($3 for children and seniors), attendees may consume as much food, juice and coffee as they can stomach in one sitting (customers may return, but they have to pay again).
The fire district estimates it serves between 3,000 and 5,000 people per year, which includes repeat customers. Last year locals consumed most of the 270 dozen eggs, 300 pounds of pancake mix and more than 200 pounds of ham ordered for the event.
Although the event began more than 40 years ago as a way for firefighters to capitalize on the influx of visitors due to the start of fishing season, locals now overwhelmingly outnumber the out-of-town fishermen at the breakfast.
'There are still a lot of sports-fisher people who come, but mostly I'd say this is very community supported,' Lasher said. 'A lot of people have been coming to this breakfast for almost as long as it's been around.'
'It's a lot of fun,' said Sandy Fire Chief Gary McQueen. ' It's a huge tradition that people look forward to every year. It's not just for people passing through town; it's a local tradition that will always go on.'
The all-ages breakfast starts with a bang Friday afternoon, with a steady stream of people usually until about 10 p.m. Then the operation slows down until about 1 a.m., when the graveyard shift customers arrive, keeping the firehouse lively until about 3 a.m.
The middle-of-the-night eaters - Lasher says there are plenty of 'regulars' during that time slot - typically get something a little extra in their pancakes: chocolate chips.
No matter what time it is, there are always at least six firefighters on the breakfast line at any time, ready to serve and chat with diners.
'It's nice to be able to sit down next to people while they're eating,' McQueen said. 'We talk about the fire department, and they ask questions about what we do. It's an opportunity to remind people why the fire district is there.'
Added Lasher, 'It's super fun. It's a very relaxed atmosphere, a lot like going to a family reunion.'
During the breakfast, attendees have the opportunity to win dozens of prizes from local businesses by purchasing raffle tickets at $1 apiece.
If you go
What: Sandy Fire Sportsman's Breakfast.
When: 5 p.m. Friday, April 25, until noon Saturday, April 26.
Where: Sandy Fire Main Station, 17460 Bruns Ave.
Cost: $4 adults, $3 children/seniors (cash and checks only).
More information: Sandy Fire District, 503-668-8093.