Kiwanis Pancake Day, Racine, Wisconsin, May 5, 2007


Since this post was written — in advance of Pancake Day 2009 — the Kiwanis Club of Greater Racine has established a Facebook page with information about Pancake Day, which wiil be held on Saturday, May 2, 2015 (it’s always on the first Saturday in May).

For a list of similar activities in the area, see our Calendar of events, festivals, things to do at

Mmm — delicious pancakes, all you can eat!

My first Pancake Day in Racine was in 2007. Amy and I had noticed the same signs popping up around town two springs in a row — cleverly promoting pancakes on “the first Saturday in May” so they could be reused — and we ignorantly assumed it was some humble little basement breakfast. We decided to go, just so the event would have a couple of customers.

Wrong. Kiwanis Pancake Day is a huge event in Racine. As the big day drew closer, I began to appreciate what a gigantic deal it is.

Racine turns out

For our “Belle City on the Lake,” Pancake Day is the official beginning of the the warm season, the day when 8,000 or 9,000 or more Racinians formally emerge from their winter dwellings and get together downtown to see and be seen, to catch up on the latest from old friends, meet new additions, and eat about 40 or 45 thousand pancakes. Beauty queens flip flapjacks, and politicians shake hands with citizens.

Line outside Festival Hall for Kiwanis Pancake Day in Racine WI

This was the line — forward and then to the left — when we arrived at 9:10 a.m. for Pancake Day 2007. It was over 400 feet before we even got to the door. Amazingly, though, it moved quite quickly. Apparently, after an event like this is held for over 50 years, the bugs are worked out and the thing runs like pretty much like clockwork.

Pancake Day: Cooks making pancakes on griddles at Festival Hall in Racine, WI

Since 1955

Pancake Day began in 1955, and in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story ahead of the 50th anniversary, Kiwanis member Jim Jude explained how even that very first year, they knew a pancake machine rented from a club in Rockford, Ill. was clearly not going to handle the demand:

“It was 4 feet in diameter and ran on electricity, but we knew it would be too slow,” Jude said.

So he, an engineer from Acme Die Casting, George Aschauer from Twin Disc, Gordy Van Remmen from Harris Metals and Bill Nelson from Modine set about creating two 5-foot-diameter machines with Modine gas heaters and Alcoa table tops.

At first, Jude says, members had to crawl underneath the machine to change the temperature. Now, Anderson said, the machines have digital controls. The third year of Pancake Day, they made two more machines, one just for the seconds line.

That article goes on to describe the highly organized logistics and systems that have developed over the years. If you’d like to experience it all firsthand, you might try contacting the Volunteer Center of Racine County to see if they have any positions yet to be filled.

Pancake Day 2007 video

For a really good glimpse of the annual festivities, take a look at this nearly 18-minute video via

Proceeds benefit area kids

Kiwanis International is a volunteer organization which seeks to improve the lives of children. The Kiwanis Club of Greater Racine typically raises over $20,000 through Pancake Day, and all of these proceeds go back into the community in the form of youth-related projects and donations ranging from playground equipment to scholarships.

Pancake Day: Festival Hall in Racine, WI 2007

Entertainment and tickets

Pancake Day entertainment is primarily provided by music ensembles from the local schools. The Journal Times has this year’s lineup, and also details on Pancake Day tickets:

Tickets cost $5 in advance and $6 at the door. There is no charge for children ages 5 and under. Advance tickets can be purchased at these locations: Academy of Dance, Johnson Bank, One-Hour Martinizing, Bank of Elmwood, Bill Pucci Barbershop, Bob’s Barber Shop, Captain’s Chair Barbers-west, Case High School Key Club, Catrine’s Barbershop, Century-21 Savaglio & Cape, Educators Credit Union on North Newman Road, Golden Kiwanis Club, Goodell Chiropractic, Hallman-Lindsay Paint, Hugs & Kisses, Johnson’s Home Furnishings, Kewpies, Knight-Barry Title, Lee’s Deli, Lee’s True Value, Maresh-Meredith Funeral Home, M & I Bank, Pick ‘n Save at Green Bay Road north and south, Plaza Barbers, Prairie Key Club, Racine Gymnastics Center, Racine Water Department, Sausage Kitchen, Sew ‘N Save, The Journal Times and Victory Lane Car Wash.

Where and when

View Mark Czerniec’s Racine & beyond in a larger map

Kiwanis Pancake Day runs from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday, May 2. It is held at Festival Hall in downtown Racine at (5 5TH ST). The building shown in pink on the above map is the adjacent parking garage.

Lakefront Artist Fair

After you’ve had your fill of pancakes, you’ll probably want to walk around a little. Fortunately, the same Festival Park grounds where Pancake Day is held will also be hosting Racine Montessori School Lakefront Artist Fair on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Artists at over 100 booths will be selling jewelry, paintings, pottery, metal art, clothing, and lots more. In addition to the arts and crafts for sale, there will be raffles, silent auctions, snack foods and beverages, and arts and crafts activities for kids.

Music trivia

Pancake Day was title of the 1996 solo debut album by Racine native and former Violent Femmes drummer Victor DeLorenzo (see also