Kiwanis' annual Fly-in Cruise-in draws thousands
by: Marcus Hathcock, Kiwanis members fling pancakes into the air during the Fly-in Cruise-in breakfast.

According to the International House of Pancakes, the company's 1,252 restaurants served more than 700 million pancakes last year.

That seems like a lot, especially when you calculate that each one of those restaurants served an average of 1,532 flapjacks a day.

But the annual Kiwanis Fly-in Cruise-in - Sandy's biggest community fund-raiser of the year - yawns at those figures as it prepares to serve more pancakes from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, July 23, than the average IHOP does on a good day.

Last year, an army of nearly 100 volunteers from a half-dozen local organizations served more than 3,500 breakfasts to Sandy-area residents, car buffs and aviation enthusiasts.

Averaging two pancakes per meal, the Kiwanis Club and friends dished out more than 7,000 flapjacks - and that's not including seconds.

Now in its 49th year, the Fly-in Cruise-in draws thousands of people from the Sandy area and beyond to McKinnon Airport, a grass airstrip near Roslyn Lake for five-and-a-half hours of pancakes, planes and Pontiacs (among other automobiles).

The event is the Sandy Kiwanis Club's biggest fund-raiser of the year, netting more than 15 percent of the group's annual operating budget. According to club Vice President D.J. Anderson - the officer in charge of this year's event - last year's breakfast brought in about $13,000, a record. Anderson says Kiwanis hopes to do even better this year.

'It all goes back into the community,' Anderson says. Specifically, Kiwanis projects include the Christmas baskets, which provide food, necessities and children's gifts to families in need in the greater Sandy area and the Kiwanis Camp for children and adults with disabilities in Rhododendron.

Kiwanis also helps with other needs as they come, such as paying $6,000 to allow students who couldn't afford activity fees to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities.

But the group doesn't do it alone. Nearly 100 volunteers help the Kiwanis with the yearly event, from the Sandy High School Key Club, the Sandy Optimists, Boy Scout Troop 662, Cub Scout Pack 258 and local FFA and 4-H groups. Organizational meetings begin four months in advance of the breakfast every year.

'This is not just a fund-raiser anymore,' says Anderson. 'It's a community event. It's the place to be. The big thing is the atmosphere. Everyone goes there to sit down, eat together and hang out.'

Mike Reese, the owner of McKinnon Airport, agrees.

'Part of the fun of having an airport like mine is just sharing it,' says the 72-year-old aviation enthusiast. He says his favorite part of the event is 'just having everyone here.'

Pancakes and Pipers

The event begins for most people with the all-you-can-eat breakfast inside the hangar. The meal includes not only the famous pancakes - tossed on your plate by Kiwanis members equally cheerful and mischievous - but also hearty servings of eggs and ham, and a bottomless supply of coffee and orange juice.

Although thousands are expected at this year's breakfast, patrons move swiftly through the serving line.

'The line goes extremely fast,' says Anderson. 'We seat hundreds at a time. After 49 years of doing this, we've got it down to a science.'

Diners sit with longtime friends and total strangers at large tables inside the hangar, enjoying the annual sounds of Tom Ten Eyck on the organ.

The price is nothing to shake a spatula at, either. One may partake in the breakfast for the decades-behind price of $5 per person, $3 for children under 10.

'You'd pay more for parking to go to most car shows before you even pay entry fee,' Anderson says. 'This is the best value anywhere; I challenge anyone to find a better value than this.'

Outside the hangar, dozens of airplanes will take off and land on the airstrip - a constant buzz of activity that elicits oohs and ahhs from 'children' of all ages.

Airplanes were at the heart of the 'Fly-in Breakfast' from its inception in 1957, when Kiwanis members and pilots Otto Motejl, Harold Eades and Rich Wesselink donated their time to fly passengers for $1 a ride.

Due to liability concerns and the cost of fuel, plane rides stopped in the 1990s, but even though plane rides are a thing of the past, community residents keep coming back to share their love for aviation and the Sandy area.

Pontiacs (and many other makes and models)

The local chapter of the nationwide Over the Hill Gang hosts its only car show of the year - one of the largest in the Northwest - on the McKinnon Airport property.

There's no pre-registration for the show, so the car club has no idea how many vehicles are going to show up until they start rolling in early Saturday morning. Organizers plan for 500 cars every year, although last year more than 600 showed up.

'It really depends on the weather,' says Over the Hill Gang Chapter President Tom DeGarmo.

Owners of show-quality cars of all makes and models are encouraged to pay the mere $10 registration fee and enter the contest. Car show entrants must identify themselves at the gate. Call DeGarmo at 503-723-3734 for more information.

Last year the group handed out more than 55 trophies; each was sponsored by businesses and members of the Over the Hill Gang for $35 apiece. DeGarmo says this year's trophies resemble miniature gas pumps.

Members of the Over the Hill Gang judge the car show, keeping it fair by banning member competition in the show. 'That's for our guests,' DeGarmo said.

A live DJ will play music (mostly oldies) all day in the car show area and will broadcast his tunes on a short-distance FM signal. The temporary radio station will also feature the car show awards.

What DeGarmo enjoys most about the show is giving away trophies and other goodies. 'There's a multitude of toys and stuff for the kids,' he says. 'We go out shopping every year to buy stuff just to give away.'

There is no charge for browsing through the hundreds of new and classic automobiles, and the Over the Hill Gang doesn't bill the Kiwanis for its services, either. 'We donate to them after it's all over,' DeGarmo says. 'This gives us a civic purpose.'

The show is such a massive undertaking, DeGarmo says, that preparations begin just hours after the previous year's event has ended. 'Sunday afternoon when it's over we start planning for the next year.'

The Sandy Kiwanis' 49th annual Fly-in Cruise-in

WHEN: 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, July 23

WHERE: McKinnon Airport, north on Ten Eyck Road from Highway 26.

COORDINATES: Latitude 45 degress, 25.84N, longitude 122 degrees, 14.52W

COST: The only charge is for breakfast - $5 per adult, $3 for children under 10.

INFO: Call 503-260-5005.

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