John Davis uses a batter dispenser alongside others that will make hundreds of the tasty pancakes for the Pancake Supper at Trinity Episcopal Church on Tuesday. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
The men of Trinity Episcopal Church teamed up again with their counterparts from Grace Episcopal to host the 96th annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper.
Held in Trinity’s fellowship hall, the event regularly draws hundreds of people to downtown Pine Bluff to enjoy pancakes, sausage and camaraderie.
Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor, the rector at Trinity, provided an explanation of the event and its historical roots.
“The word ‘shrove’ comes from shriven which is when we rid ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically of all excesses,” Windsor said. “Physically we rid ourselves of sweets, red meat and other things that people needed to get rid of in the larder [food storage area] in preparation for Lent. Historically, in England this is how pancake suppers got started.”
Windsor made a distinction between the Shrove Tuesday tradition of the Episcopal church and the Mardi Gras revelry associated with the Catholic tradition.
“With Mardi Gras, it’s about indulging in as much excess as you can the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent,” Windsor said. “That is not our tradition. For us the day is about ridding ourselves of this excess before the start of Lent.”
John Davis is the president of the Trinity men’s club and has been participating in the pancake supper for around 30 years.
“It’s almost like the community expects it,” Davis said of the perennial popularity of the event. “We are expecting to sell between 400 and 500 meals tonight with between 200 and 250 of those being takeout.”
Davis said that the $6 per person cost of the meals is used for things including sending young people to summer camps and buying items needed by the church, including the tables and chairs set up in the fellowship hall.
The amount of money earned by each church is determined by counting the number of sold tickets color coded for Trinity and the number of sold tickets color coded for Grace and multiplying by six.
“You see a lot of people here every year that you only see here,” Davis said.
Davis said that the three large pancake griddles being used to prepare the star attraction are owned by the church.
“We’ve had these about 10 years now,” Davis said. “We used to rent them from somewhere else but it is much easier to have our own.”
Fred Davis said that he has been helping with the pancake supper since the mid-1970s.
“I really enjoy the camaraderie,” Davis said. “It’s a fun thing to do. It was a men’s club event that led to me becoming Episcopalian.”
Bob Hart is president of the Grace Episcopal men’s club and agreed that the event provided an opportunity to meet with people not very often seen.
“I believe Grace started participating in the pancake supper with Trinity not long after Grace was founded in 1959,” Hart said.
Bill Bridgforth, a member of Trinity, said that he has been helping with the pancake supper for 40 years.
“It brings people into the church and gives the people of the church an opportunity to work together in a community-oriented environment,” Bridgforth said.
Shane Bridgforth said that the men of his family have a tradition of working at the pancake supper.
“This brings back great memories,” Bridgforth said. “I used to come here as a kid. Now I work the supper. My dad and my son have also worked it. This is an important event for the Episcopal Church.”
Ron Passmore said that he married into the church.
“I’ve been married to my wife for 26 years and I’ve been helping with the pancake supper for 25,” Passmore said. “My son did this with me and he’s a junior in college now. The social aspect of it is fun.”
Phil McBee of Trinity, dressed in a black tuxedo with red and green plaid tie and cummerbund, served as the maiter d’ for the evening.
“I’ve been doing this now for six or seven years,” McBee said. “It’s nice just being with the people and talking with them.”
A gentleman who gave his name as “Mr. Mack,” said that he had been helping with the event for 37 years.
“I enjoy the preparation aspect of it and getting everything ready,” Mack said. “The money we raise is used in part to support Neighbor to Neighbor and different outreach programs. We also use it to buy things that are needed in the church.”
Delos and Hazel McCauley said that the pancake supper has been an annual tradition for them for a number of years as a result of one of their hobbies.
“We play duplicate bridge on Tuesday nights and Sam Cheesman, who helps with the pancake supper, is the president of our club,” Delos McCauley said. “So he sells us tickets every year and we come.”