Hundreds of hungry visitors lined up Saturday morning at Timber-Linn Memorial Park, as they have since 1957, to have their plates filled with pancakes, sausage and eggs at the East Albany Lions Club Lumberjack Breakfast, which runs through Tuesday.
While breakfast-goers passed through, a platoon of 36 Lions refilled coffees, handed out flatware and butter and ran the kitchen, a marvel of culinary production by any estimation. A squad of 12 Lions and other volunteers worked the line, running 10 electric flattop griddles while slinging eggs, sausage and pancakes.
But possibly the most crucial element was the Hobart mixer, from which Lion Ralph Lyman, a retired parts man, produced the batter, distributed in pitchers to serve the masses. The mixer, which has been used at the breakfast for the past 15 years and has been rebuilt twice, came from West Albany High School. Before that, the Lions would mix the batter by hand.
Lyman worked tirelessly, mixing the pancake mix with water in the singular mixer to keep up with demand. By 8:30 he'd already been through five 25-pound bags of the stuff and expected to clear 10 before the day was over. Over on the line, 18-year Lion and pancake chef Roger Wiley will serve 2,000 pancakes by day's end. He mans one of six pancake stations. That's 12,000 pancakes. A day.
But behind the line, three flattops kept a constant supply of sausage moving. The smoke wafted up, announced with an aromatic hiss from the griddle, as Lion Bill Scheler kept the resupply from the Umpqua Dairy freezer truck coming, dropping boxes of frozen sausage like ammo cans next to his fellow Lions.
"I've been stuck doing sausage for the past 11 years," he said, tossing a bundle of them onto the heat. "I don't think there's a wrong way to cook 'em, although some people like 'em a little burned, while others like them more blond."
Scheler expected to go through 1,700 pounds of sausage by Tuesday.
"That's close to a ton, at least," he said.
Over at another griddle, Lion Craig Wibbens managed a phalanx of eggs, which occupy every available space on the three-foot square surface. The real estate broker flipped them like a pro, having served at the breakfast for 23 years.
How many eggs will he serve today?
"Oh, no idea," he replied. And when he later sees the same reporter in line for breakfast, he remarks, "So now you're a food critic?"
Fair enough. The pancakes were fluffy and not dry at all, with each line cook waiting for that ideal flipping moment: just as the bubbles rise in the center. That is the mark of a proper pancake chef. The sausages had that perfect crisp to their shell while remaining juicy inside. And the eggs, which are easy to do wrong in such a high-volume arena, were a perfect over-medium, resting as bright and buoyant discs on the plate, adding much to the presentation. And the portions were generous, not to mention the syrup dispenser at the ready in the dining area, which was situated pleasantly next to the classic car show, providing diners with views of T-Birds, Mustangs, vintage trucks and other elegant machines.
Along with the 36 Lions, volunteers from other groups, such as Albany's ABC House, were on hand as well. The event last year raised $16,000 for local causes, and Scheler said the Lions are on track to do the same or better this year. The event runs from 6 to 11 a.m. through Tuesday. The cost for breakfast is $8 for adults, $4 for children age 11 and under.