Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

Local News

August 31, 2011

Countdown to Pancake Day: Pancake Day history

CENTERVILLE — We’re counting the days till Pancake Day. Folks from all over the country will be converging on the Centerville Square to eat free pancakes, visit with friends and family, watch the parades, crown the queen and just be part of the big Centerville reunion we call Pancake Day. But do you know how it all began? Lisa Eddy was lucky enough to be able to review all of the notes, pictures, newspaper accounts and items saved from the very beginnings of Pancake Day when Joyce Bieber asked her to compile a book to commemorate Pancake Day’s 60th anniversary in 2008. The information was overwhelming and utterly entertaining. Here’s what she found that tells about how it all began.

Centerville’s famous “Pancake Day” began in 1949 as a way to say “Thank You” to all of the people in the Centerville area for their patronage of Centerville businesses. In 1971, Paul Beer came back to Centerville for Pancake Day and remembered how it all began.

“A group of us were talking things over in front of Bob Elgin’s store and one of the group mentioned that the town should be doing something in the way of a celebration. Another mentioned he had heard of the Pancake Day idea somewhere and that really was the start of Pancake Day as it is known today. None of us realized at that time just how big it would get. I can remember there was Bob Elgin, Jimmy Adamson, Al Farber, Bill Stephens, Fred Wedekin and Warren Langfitt in the group, and possibly some others,” recounted Beer.

After this conversation, Frank Klum, Roy Rinehart, Fred Wedekin and Oliver Klipping made a trip to Shenandoah to confer with the officials about their Pancake Day event. These men brought back with them the ideas and the energy to create the first Pancake Day in Centerville.

As luck would have it, Centerville was home to a Pillsbury plant, who provided the pancake mix for the first year’s event and for several years thereafter. The Penick-Ford Company donated the syrup. Milk, cream and butter were provided by the Jones Dairy in Corydon, more butter was donated by Swift & Company. Around 15,000 pancakes were prepared on three or four griddles at the old Armory building on East Van Buren, where the line was as long as 100 people waiting for their maple-ey goodness.

There has been a Pancake Day Queen contest since the very first year. Joan McCalment from Unionville, Mo., was the first young woman named as the Pancake Day Queen.

Other events during that first year included a wood chopping contest and a horseshoe pitching tournament, with prizes awarded. The bandstand on the square was constantly filled with entertainment, including the music of The Melody Boys, The Golden Chain Troubadours, Myna and Pauline, and Fern and Norman.  Tucker the Magician was also there to entertain the crowd of 6,000. At the end of the day, a new 1949 Oldsmobile was given away — the lucky man, Terry Piatt of Moulton, was the winner.

The next year, a big parade was added, and some of the same events were repeated. Pancake Day grew even larger. In the years that followed, Centerville’s Pancake Day continued to grow, becoming a major regional event, where governors and pageant winners were often in attendance. According to the local papers, crowds of up to 50,000 people were claimed. Many celebrities, politicians and entertainers were a common site during those years of growth. Everyone wanted to be a part of Pancake Day. Many of the businesses got into friendly competitions to see which could come up with the best float. Bands came from miles around to compete in the band competition. Nearly all organizations, clubs, an schools had an entry in the parade. Over the years, Shriners, antique cars, horses, and more were added to the parade.

For the first five years, Pancake Day was held on the first Thursday in October, then moved to the last Thursday in September in 1954. The children were let out of school for a half day to attend the Thursday event. In 1964 the Kiddie Parade was added to the list of events on Pancake Day. In 1965, Pancake Day was changed to the last Saturday in September, where it has remained ever since.

In 1953, the Pancake Day Committee sold commemorative buttons as a fund-raiser. Over the years, many people have purchased one every year, and have an impressive collection.

Centerville’s Pancake Day has become famous. It has been mentioned in Time magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Des Moines Register and many publications all over Iowa. In 1988, a large group of citizens gathered in front of the courthouse to be filmed while proclaiming, “Good Morning, America!,” which aired on ABC. Since the early years, WOI, KTVO and KCCI television stations have covered the event at some point in time.

Over the past 63 years, Pancake Day has changed in many ways, but it has kept its original claim – free pancakes to thank the patrons of Centerville businesses.  In 1949, no one would have imagined that the Centerville Square would become host to over 1,000 empty lawn chairs several days prior to this annual event in anticipation of another great festival! Those lawn chairs are a testament to the pride and enthusiasm for the never-ending story of Centerville’s Pancake Day.

Text Only
Local News
  • Earth Day activities at Morgan E. Cline City Park Kids will get to learn about guerrilla gardening with seed bombs and making recycled art during Earth Day activities at the Morgan E. Cline City Park in Centerville on Saturday, April 26 from 9 a.m. to noon. Appanoose Ecovision is sponsoring the free

    April 23, 2014

  • Drug take back set for Saturday, April 26 On April 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Appanoose County sheriff and the Drug Enforcement Administration will give the public its eighth opportunity in three years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired

    April 23, 2014

  • A.C. history by Enfys McMurry April 23, 1922: Seven days after its installation, WDAX joined with The Centerville Journal for a broadcast concert featuring all-local artists. More than 1,000 people packed 12th Street from Maple to the Square. They watched Jack Porter operating h

    April 23, 2014

  • 042314 CCC Meeting Photo 2 Council moves to vacate land The Centerville City Council at City Hall Monday voted to move forward with the process to vacate a tree-filled ravine located between North Fifth Street and West Maple Street, or Highway 2 that was originally platted to be a continuation of West Jac

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Blood drive seeks donors The next Centerville Community Blood Drive will be held Tuesday, May 6 from 12-6 p.m. at Grace Tabernacle Church, 914 N. Park St. in Centerville. Anyone interested in donating can schedule an appointment online at or by call

    April 23, 2014

  • Monthly immunization clinic is on Tuesday The regular monthly immunization clinic will be held Tuesday, April 29 from 1-4 p.m. by appointment only at the Appanoose County Public Health Office at 209 E. Jackson St. in Centerville. Childhood immunizations available include DTaP, Polio, MMR, Va

    April 23, 2014

  • Healthy Appanoose: Week 15 The 15th week of the Healthy Appanoose Challenges are printed below. The free program can be joined anytime throughout the year. Log in at the Centerville-Rathbun Lake Area Chamber of Commerce at to record challenges completed.

    April 22, 2014

  • Waterworks to proceed with project The Centerville Municipal Waterworks Board of Trustees during their March 27 meeting approved a resolution that orders bids, approves plans, specifications and form of contract for the 2013 water system improvements project associated with the street

    April 22, 2014

  • A.C. history by Enfys McMurry April 22, 1910: This was the day when the Interurban service between Centerville and Mystic began with a special dedication run. On board were the 165 bond subscribers in Centerville and Mystic who had made the Interurban possible. Among the group we

    April 22, 2014

  • Moravia mayor signs proclamation Moravia's mayor signed a proclamation at the Tuesday, April 8 City Council regular meeting declaring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Mayor Irene Brooks talked about the many ways sexual assaults can affect people everywhere. The council made

    April 22, 2014

  • Audit exposes deficiencies The Centerville Municipal Waterworks had double-digit increases in both receipts and disbursements for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013, according to an audit released recently by Des Moines-based CPA firm Faller, Kincheloe & Co. PLC. The aud

    April 22, 2014

  • Open burn ban lifted Pursuant to Iowa code and at the request of Mike Lamb, representing each fire department having all or part of their fire districts within Appanoose County, the open burning ban for Appanoose County was lifted effective Monday, April 21 at 4 p.m. Op

    April 22, 2014

  • Morgan Cline In Memory of Morgan E. Cline

    In Memory of Morgan E. Cline
    August 26, 1932 to April 20, 2014
    Morgan Cline passed away peacefully in his home in New Jersey Easter morning. He will be remembered as a great and gracious man and will be greatly missed. More information will be shared as it is received.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Open burn ban lifted

    Pursuant to Iowa code and at the request of  Mike Lamb, representing each fire department having all or part of their fire districts within Appanoose County, the open burning ban for Appanoose County will be lifted effective today at 4 p.m.

    April 21, 2014

  • 042114 Family 25 years as business owners Today marks the 25 year anniversary of husband and wife Jerry and Cathy Whisler, of Centerville, becoming self-employed. Jerry called it kind of a fluke as he and Cathy became owners of a business they knew nothing about. That was in April of 1989 an

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads

The Iowegian wants readers to think about rental permit fees. The Centerville City Council has conducted two working sessions and a third one is planned in order to get a feel for the public's appetite about raising rental permit fees from charging a landlord $25 every two years to charging a certain amount per rental unit per year. So, the question of the week is, "Are you in favor of Centerville increasing rental permit fees?"

A. I'm in favor.
B. I'm not in favor.
C. I'm not sure.
     View Results
Iowegian on Facebook