Pancake Breakfast Tradition Dates Back to the Origins of the Festival of Balloons

Kiwanis members, from left, Olaf Weidekat, Henry Wong, Dennis Hetherington, Amanda Laio and May Van prepare pancakes at last year’s breakfast. Photos by Bill Glazier

When Ted Shaw, former Review publisher and Mayor of South Pasadena, was organizing the first ever Festival of Balloons 37 years ago, he knew there had to be a pancake breakfast to kick off the day’s festivities. He just couldn’t find a local organization willing to make it happen.

That is, until the Kiwanis Club stepped up to the plate.

This July 4, as they’ve done for the past 36 years, Kiwanis Club members will wake up at 5 a.m. to set up the Pancake Breakfast venue and prepare pancakes, sausage and fruit for the four-hour event leading up to the parade through town. This year’s event will take place at the South Pasadena Fire Station.

The event lasts from 7 to 11 a.m., with tickets going for $8 per person. Kids under 6 years old get in free. Tickets can be purchased at the South Pasadena Fire Station, 817 Mound Avenue; the South Pasadena Senior Center, 1102 Oxley Street; Bristol Farms, 606 Fair Oaks Avenue; Charlie’s Coffee House, 266 Monterey Road; Dinosaur Farm, 1510 Mission Street; Mission Framing, 1501 Mission Street; Re-Imagine Your Home, 1518 Mission Street; UPS Store, 1107 Fair Oaks Avenue; South Pasadena-San Marino YMCA, 1605 Garfield Avenue; and The Moo on Mission, 1006 Mission Street.

Adam Ruiz and JoAnn Semon enjoyed pancakes last year at the annual Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast.

“It’s all hands on deck,” John Vandercook, a longtime Kiwanis Club member, said Wednesday. “Our members get to the Station at 5:30 a.m. and are pretty much working until 11 a.m.”

Vandercook expects this year’s breakfast to be especially well-attended, because the Fourth is occurring on a Wednesday. “People stay when the Fourth of July falls in the middle of the week,” he said. “I estimate we’ll see somewhere around 3,000 people.”

Proceeds from the breakfast go into the Kiwanis Club service account. Every year, the Club awards over $4,500 to graduating high school seniors. It also donates bicycles to elementary school students and makes a number of contributions to South Pasadena Middle School. It also participates in other community service projects.

For a period of years, the event took place in the parking lot behind Citizens Bank. But after the LA County Health Department began to prohibit selling food in an open-air venue, the event moved into the Fire Station. During the event, Fire trucks usually resting in the Fire Station will be parked outside on Mound Avenue.

The Kiwanis Club meets Wednesdays at noon, for lunch and a meeting attended by a guest speaker, at Calvary Presbyterian Church in South Pasadena. The club invites those interested in joining to come for a Wednesday lunch, Vandercook said.