Mix 340 litres of pancake batter, 3,000 sausages, boxes of syrup, 100-cup coffee urns, and you have a recipe for the St. Albert Rainmaker Pancake Breakfast.
This true cowboy breakfast is making its comeback on Saturday, May 28, at City Hall Plaza on St. Anne Street.
The free kick-off breakfast, a Rainmaker tradition originally hosted by the Lions Club since 1966, is now in the hands of 15 to 20 St. Albert Gazette employee volunteers. Of all the Rainmaker events, it is the most belly-satisfying, as folks bite into juicy sausages and gorge on fluffy pancakes slathered in syrup.
“It’s our 11th year running it. We took it over after the membership at the Lions became too small and they didn’t have the manpower and finances to pull off the event,” said Sarah Jamison, vice-president of human resources for Great West Media, The Gazette's parent company.
Although Sarah has the planning of it down to a science, it still takes about two months to organize all the pieces, which include obtaining a city licence; renting a tent; acquiring eight grills; buying sausages, pancake mix and propane; and picking up plates, cutlery, and napkins.
On the Friday before the King-sized breakfast, Special Events Edmonton sets up a tent and parks the grills at St. Albert Place Plaza. City Hall security monitors the site throughout the night. By 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning, volunteers are on site hooking up propane tanks, firing up grills, arranging tables, and making juice. At 6:30 a.m. a second group of volunteers arrives to flip pancakes and grill sausages for an onslaught of hungry diners.
In The Gazette’s busiest year volunteers dished out 2,100 plates. However, in 2010, the first year The Gazette handled this family event, slushy snow blanketed the area and only 450 diehard attendees showed up to chow down on hot food.
“I personally think if the weather is nice, we’ll be crazy busy. There’s been a pent-up demand for things like this,” said Sarah.
Evan Jamison, Great West's vice-president of manufacturing, who makes sure the Saturday cook-out proceeds smoothly, added, “COVID won’t affect it. It will be weather dependent.”
He noted the morning is super busy, as visitors jockey for spots before the Rainmaker Parade starts.
“We try to keep up. But we have a small group and it's go-go-go. It goes by like a blast. It’s always stressful, but once it gets going it goes by like a blur.”
The entire breakfast costs around $7,000, however dollars are the smallest part of the equation.
“It’s important for The Gazette to be involved in the community. We used to do the Fun Run. We got tired of doing it and interest waned. This event came along, and we thought we’d like to do it,” Sarah said.
Evan added, “We look forward to supporting this community event and we enjoy the breakfast.”
As longtime St. Albert residents, the Jamison family views the St. Albert Rainmaker as an ongoing family affair.
Sarah fondly recalls how her father Ernie Jamison — founding Gazette publisher, MLA, and Lions member — would take her to the Rainmaker Midway every year during elementary school.
“I was a rides girl, and he was a rides dad, and we would do the whole thing together every year.”
Evan added: “It was part of what we did. The Rainmaker changed over the years and what we did changed, but it was a regular haunt. Most people who grew up in St. Albert had fun with it.”
The Rainmaker Pancake Breakfast runs Saturday, May 28, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Bring a lawn chair. Bring your family. Bring your appetite!