SIKESTON - Sikeston's Wesley Methodist Church has the recipe for a successful Pancake Day. Start with 200 pounds of bacon, add 200 pounds of sausage, mix in some 300 pounds of pancake mix and top it off with cup after cup of coffee, juice or milk.
But there is also a special ingredient - the church congregation. When 21st Annual Pancake Day begins at 7 a.m. Saturday at the church, almost every active member will pitch in to ensure its success.
Gerald Yeargain attributes its popularity to one thing - it's fun.
"Everybody just gets along great. We have a wonderful time," Yeargain said about the annual event. "Anybody that wants to get in on it does. You would be amazed at the kids helping out. They do the running around, taking care of the tables."
Yeargain, the self-proclaimed "runner" for the event, stocks up the church kitchen with the needed supplies about a week before the event. Then throughout the day he will keep watch to make sure everyone has all they need to keep the six-hour event running smoothly as many as Sikeston residents stop in to get their fill.
"It is my job to get the things to turn out the best pancakes," he said, adding throughout they day they will flip some 1,500 to 2,000 pancakes on to the plates of hungry customers.
The Pancake Day started 21 years ago as a small fund-raiser. Yeargain recalled they cooked with two grills then - one for the pancakes and one for the sausage. Today, he makes sure there are six grills ready for the cooks along with eight warmers.
Yeargain said in all the years he has never heard of a customer leaving who was unhappy or disappointed with the pancakes, made from what he described as their secret recipe.
It's so secret, the Rev. Rick Lasley, the church pastor, is still waiting to learn it after eight years of working the Pancake Day.
"The pancakes are wonderful but I don't know what's in them, they won't tell me," said Lasley with a laugh. "But whatever they do to the pancake batter, it tastes good. The pancakes are light, fluffy and as big as a plate."
Like many in the congregation, Lasley has worked numerous jobs at the annual event. He ticks off assignments from flipping pancakes ("not well but I have") to washing dishes. Now his primary assignment is as greeter, meeting the public, welcoming them to Wesley United Methodist Church and encouraging them to fill their plates.
Calling Pancake Day "an all-hands-on-deck affair," Lasley described it as coming together not only of the congregation but of the entire community, who have supported the church's fund-raiser for two decades.
The money raised by the annual event is used for a variety of projects. Funds have gone for United Methodist ministry projects to teach children in Africa or feed the needy in Tennessee as well as long church projects and sometimes simply into the general budget to fund new equipment or pay the light bills, Lasley said.
Keith Davidson, volunteered to help cook for the first church pancake day and has been flipping flapjacks off the grill ever since. Over the years, Davidson said he has learned the secret to cooking pancakes just right.
"You've got to not cook the pancakes too long and you don't want to undercook the pancakes -- undercooked is a no-no in the pancake business. They have to be cooked through and through because then they will soak up the syrup," he paused then added, "After several hundred of them, you get to know how to cook them."
He even knows how to make pancakes to entertain their youngest customers. The cookers create a pancake with a round head and ears to resemble Mickey Mouse much to the children's delight.
Now Davidson said he is passing his skills on to others at the church as they prepare for this year's 21st Annual Pancake Day and many more to come.
"This is an easy way to help the church and the community. You drop by, see all your buddies here and get a good meal at a good price," said Davidson. "It is a good time for us and the community, everyone seems to enjoy it."