The Bedford Days now-traditional pancake breakfast started with a one-off year in a parade about a decade ago. Gerard Avery, general manager with Sunnyside and Sunnyside Too, planned for the restaurant to have a float. On board was the cast of Grafton Street Dinner Theatre. He even invested in about 12 metres of banners that wrapped around the float itself. That was in 2002.
While the float was a success, organizers cancelled the parade the following year.
“Then we thought, ‘What can we do with these banners?’” says Avery, who’s been with the restaurant since 1995.
The next year, the Bedford Days committee gave Avery a call about taking part in Bedford Days again. Avery suggested a pancake breakfast for the morning slot during Canada Day.
The restaurant rented a few griddles, made the batter, brought it all down to the site at DeWolf Park and started cooking. They took those parade banners and wrapped them around the fencing on the site.
“There were four or five people watching us curiously to what we were doing,” Avery says. That first year, they were set up for about 100 people, but got about 150. They had to drive back to the restaurant to make more batter.
“We were quite happy with the turnout of 150,” Avery says.
During the second year, Avery asked if he could use the stage at DeWolf Park for entertainment. He invited the cast from Grafton Street Dinner Theatre to join them to provide entertainment while they whipped up the pancakes.
“It’s sometimes a half hour for a couple of pancakes, so it’s great to have that band there,” he says. “It’s become a much a tradition for Bedford as it has for our staff.”
Some 14 years later, the pancake breakfast is an established tradition for Bedford Days. Sunnyside bought its own griddles and preps for the event two or three days beforehand. It takes about 12 hours of work to get ready.
“Our staff are the ones who put it on and do all the work,” Avery says. “It’s a really big production now. Now when we get started there are already 150 people waiting for us. And the lineup doesn’t stop. It stays at 150 until we are done.”
About 2,000 pancakes are made over the two hours. “That’s as many as we can produce in that time,” Avery says.
For many guests to the breakfast, it’s just the kickoff to their day. “A lot of people in the lineup, when we are done, they find the guests in the dining room back at the restaurant,” he says. “So they start their day with a pancake appetizer.”
Avery says he and the staff have made plenty of friends over the years through hosting the breakfast. He says together they recognize the importance of giving back to their community. “We talked to people who say, ‘I’ve been coming here for 12 years,’” Avery says. “That’s something we created. It’s very rewarding.”
What’s in store for this year’s pancake breakfast? “They can expect good times and good food,” Avery says.