HANALEI — The line snaked through the Hanalei School cafeteria and, at one point, was down the stairs.
“This is more people than I can ever remember,” said Lion Bill Troutman of the North Shore Lions as he tended to a variety of chores at the club’s 24th annual pancake breakfast Sunday.
The popularity of the community event was evident in the rows of overflow parking that lined both sides of the highway fronting Hanalei School, and as diners leisurely made their way to the cafeteria, sounds of Naomi Yokotake greeted them.
Signs billing the event as “pancakes and hula” punctuated the highway from Kilauea to Hanalei and the signs did not disappoint as the ladies of Yokotake’s hula halau provided dining entertainment for the morning segment of the breakfast, many of the halau’s dancers having their spouses occupied with serving at the pancake breakfast.
Lion Don McConnell, the chairman for the pancake breakfast, made it a point to personally greet each diner as they made their way up the steps leading to the cafeteria.
“We’re still selling tickets,” McConnell said between diners. “The crowd is sporadic, but when the green church lets out, it’s going to get crowded.”
McConnell said the popular community event features more than breakfast. Yokotake and her halau opened the slate of entertainment kept diners at their seats, a silent auction offered a variety of merchandise and services from community businesses and lucky number tickets were also available for a variety of door prizes.
“We’ll probably go through about 800-900 meals by the time we’re through,” McConnell said. “And don’t forget Lion Odie Dill. He’s taking care of the take-out orders. There’re about 150 of them.”
Dill had the task of balancing filling ticket orders while keeping an eye on the steady stream of diners that filed through the serving line in the cafeteria.
Phil Sterker, whose wife Sandi was busy moving trays of cooked Portuguese sausage, kept things lively with his banter with diners waiting on cooking eggs.
“We don’t have Mike Loo this year,” said one Lion in the hectic kitchen area. “The eggs are slowing down, but it’s okay. We got the pace.”
The Sterkers make their way to the event from Kalaheo where they live, a journey that Sandi can only describe as starting “real early.”
“And, it’s not done at 11 o’ clock,” she said. “There’s the clean up afterwards. Sometimes that can take really long, too.”
Another of the long-distance breakfast fans was Wendee Miguel who hails from ‘Ele‘ele.
“It’s OK,” Wendee’s mom said. “We spend the weekend in Anahola with relatives so it’s not bad at all.”
McConnell pointed out that among the field of diners, “A lot of visitors keep coming back from off-island just to take in this event.”
Additionally, he said there are community businesses like the Pahio Resorts that buy 130 tickets and distribute them among its employees.
“This is really a big help to the effort and the community,” McConnell said.
Among the diners enjoying the pancakes being whipped out by the crew of Lions Wayne Yoshida, Gary Pacheco and Wayne Tanji, Sharron Weber caught a ride with Diane Kent of the East Kaua‘i Lions Club.
“We’re going golfing afterwards,” Weber said while chatting with EK Lion Janice Bond who was one of the early diners so she could attend church in Kapa‘a after the meal.
Other Lions from the EK club had also opted to arrive early to get a good tee time at the Princeville Golf Course following breakfast. Lions like Hans Hellriegel of the Kapa‘a Lions Club stayed around to enjoy the entertainment and fellowship.
“We’re all Lions,” Hellriegel said. “We come because we like to help each other out.”