A tasty tradition like none other

Commitment to the outdoors and serving pancakes, pickles and ham draw dedicated enthusiasts to Riveredge through rain, sleet and snow
ozaukee Press staff

A touch of winter weather in early spring didn’t lessen the crowds or volunteers or dampen the enthusiasm for what has become an annual tradition at Riveredge Nature Center in Newburg.

“Even today with the snow it was beautiful. It was so picturesque,” Riveredge Interim Executive Director Kim Pemble said during a pancake breakfast at the Sugarbush House last month.

“Kids were catching snowflakes on their tongues.”

The demand for the few Saturday morning breakfasts grew so high that a fourth session was added this year to accommodate as many people on the waiting list as possible. In addition to 9 and 10:30 a.m. and noon serving times, 7:30 a.m. was added.

Pemble, a longtime member and board member, remembers when the breakfast was held at the Sugar Inn near the Milwaukee River. Accommodations included a tent with a cover for the evaporator that requires 43 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

“There was no inside,” he said. “We are in nature. We eat pancakes and take hikes.”

The evaporator has since moved into the Sugarbush House, along with some of the seating for the breakfast. One of the machine’s operators, Don Gilmore of Grafton, who wore a nametag around his neck that read “Big Sap,” has been on the staff for 30 years.

He arrived at 5:30 a.m. to help get things started and wasn’t going to leave until the evening to make sure the evaporator was properly functioning.

“It’s a great event. Anytime you get food out, people come out of the woodwork for it, even on a rainy day,” Gilmore said.

“That’s what we’re about — nature. We need to spread environmental education around here.”

One of the center’s educators, Mich Kraemer, was in her second year of volunteering. She didn’t mind flipping flapjacks.

“It’s nice and warm here,” she said.

Two-decade volunteer Mark Vollmers of Milwaukee, a longtime teacher and professional actor who has been in commercials, often comes to the center to help with maintenance work. The pancake breakfast is one of his favorite events.

“The other day I had one kid come up and give me a hug and say, ‘Thanks for the pancakes,’” he said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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