Pile on the memories: Flipping flapjacks is Fourth of July tradition

For some, Bainbridge’s Fourth of July Pancake Breakfast is simply an opportunity to eat some breakfast while benefiting high school sports, but for many others the flipping of flapjacks on the Fourth signifies the true arrival of summer.

Former Bainbridge High School football coach Andy Grimm has spent many an early Fourth of July morning manning the grills, cooking up a mountain of pancakes to feed the hungry Independence Day revelers. Grimm volunteered his mornings on the Fourth from the early ’90s right up to 2015.

In the beginning, Grimm said, the event benefited all of the sports at the high school. “In the early stages it was run by the overall boosters at the high school, so it was run by the governing body of all sports,” Grimm said. “They encouraged us as coaches to show up and help put it on, just to get a chance for the community to see you as a coach and serve the community.”

And things were made a little bit sweeter for the coaches, no matter how much syrup flowed at the big flapjack feast.

“If you ended up working, whether it was basketball or tennis, or whatever, they would give you a small cut to go into your account to help pay for whatever you needed — extra balls, jerseys, whatever it may be.”

Later, around 2010, the boosters club offered to let BHS football take over the whole event. “It’s a big deal and it’s a lot of work, and it’s a pretty decent amount of money for all the sports,” Grimm added.

Still, it took some veterans of the gridiron — make that iron griddle — to keep the tasty tradition going. “They got kind of burned out and they offered it to football at the time,” Grimm said of the other coaches.

But for veteran flapjack flipper Grimm, the fundraising portion of the breakfast accounts for only about half of the true significance of the event.

“It’s a great fundraiser, whether it’s boosters or a single sport. But for me, it’s about community,” Grimm said.

“It’s when you see everybody back, that’s the fun part. I would see ex-players, ex-students, my old teachers, my old administrators, my neighbor. To me, that’s what Bainbridge Fourth of July is about.

“Sure, it was great for the teams that I coach, because we would get extra money, but I think if you ask anybody that’s been around for a while, the Fourth of July is a true, old-school, get-together of the island,” Grimm said.

He added, “Rotary Auction and the pancake breakfast — that’s the start of the summer.”

New families also return to the island for the Fourth and all of the festivities, which, of course, includes the Boaters Fair at Waterfront Park (July 2), the downtown street dance (July 3) and the Grand Old Fourth celebration on Independence Day.

The Grand Old Fourth kicks off with the Bainbridge Youth Services Fun Run, followed by the pancake breakfast in the morning and the parade in the afternoon.

“Kids come back as they’re starting their families and stuff, if their parents live here,” Grimm said. “They’ll bring their family back so they can see that kind of small-town Americana celebration.”

Whereas the pancake breakfast is the sign of summer’s start, one islander’s visit often signified the start of the pancake breakfast itself.

“Do you know Sandy the barber?” Grimm asked. “He used to cut my hair when I was 6 or 7 years old. We used to say that until he went through the line — and he was always there right at 7:30 — for us, that was like the start. We were finally good because he’d eat the first batch and give us the thumbs up. He was the local expert.”

This year, Grimm will not be the steward of short stacks; that task has been delegated to Sean Winker, a first-timer running the breakfast.

Winker said the team will be showing up around 5:30 a.m. to start setting up and preparing the massive amounts of ham, eggs and, of course, pancake batter, which are expected to feed a crowd numbering in the thousands.

For Winker, the name of the game is keeping it the same. “What I told everybody that’s helping out is, ‘as few changes as possible from last year,’ just because everybody that’s worked before knows what they’re doing.”

The pancake breakfast will take place from 7-11 a.m. and will be the first of many Fourth of July festivities on the island. The street fair (located in the Town & Country parking lot, Bjune and Brien streets and in Waterfront Park) begins at 9 a.m. and features more than 100 arts and crafts, food, nonprofit and information booths.

Live music will also be happening in the Town & Country Parking lot, courtesy of Ranger and the Re-Arrangers and Soul Siren. The parade will begin at 1 p.m. This year the theme is “1967” and the event is expected to draw droves of folks to the streets, so stake out a spot early.

— Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. Contact him at ntweitmeyer@soundpublishing.com.

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