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COVID doesn't stop iconic Pancake Day in Washington

Volunteers cook pancakes inside the Washington Fire Department Wednesday for their annual Pancake Day fundraiser. (James Jennings/The Union)
Volunteers cook pancakes inside the Washington Fire Department Wednesday for their annual Pancake Day fundraiser. (James Jennings/The Union)

The COVID-19 pandemic could not stop the Washington Fire Department from hosting its 51st annual Pancake Day fundraiser on Wednesday.

With current restrictions on gatherings, though, the department had to make adjustments.

“This is first time we’ve done a drive-up,” Fire Chief Brendan DeLong said.

Adjusting to a full drive-up event had its challenges.

“The biggest thing we wanted to have under control was traffic control,” DeLong said. “We didn’t want a bunch of congestion on South Second Avenue, so we spent quite a bit of time trying to navigate that situation.”

Traffic cones were set up directing people to turn east onto East Jefferson Avenue on the south side of the fire station.

There, volunteers would hand out the boxed-up meals to drivers in their vehicles.

It also took extra volunteers to help prepare and distribute the meals, with about 45 volunteers on hand during the lunch serving on Wednesday.

“You have meals you have to box up, so it takes that many more hands to box up the meals,” DeLong said.

Each meal included three pancakes, two sausages and two eggs.

DeLong said that they shopped locally for the ingredients.

“We got the stuff from Walmart, Hy-Vee and Fareway,” he said. “We spread it out and try to keep it local and buy all our stuff locally.”

Traffic through the drive-up was steady during lunch.

“Generally, our supper crowd is bigger than lunch,” DeLong said. “We’re looking forward to a positive supper tonight.”

Organizers planned to serve 1,300-1,500 meals over the two shifts.

The money raised benefit the department.

“We use it for training and equipment, stuff we use throughout the year,” DeLong said. “In the past, we’ve raised about $8,000 after it was all said and done.

“We’ll just have to see how this year goes.”