For the past 52 years, two families, along with some friends, have been filling Elmira Maple Syrup Festival visitors’ bellies with delicious pancakes.
The Batter Boys have been behind the scenes at the festival, hidden from the thousands of people picking up their plate of pancakes and sausage, mixing the large amounts of batter needed for the pancake flipping crew to do their work. This year is no different.
What started as a couple of friends, Aden Weber and Orlan Martin, getting together to lend a hand at the first festival, the Martins and the Webers have worked together mixing thousands of kilograms of batter over the years. The modern iteration of the Batter Boys is made up of Kevin Martin, Rick Weber, Benton Weber and Glenn Martin, along with family friends Ray Metzger, Michael Martin and Jeff Mayer.
“My dad and Rick’s grandpa started back when the festival started,” said Glenn. “Then I and Rick’s dad, who isn’t living anymore, took over.”
Mixing all of the pancake batter at the pancake tent used to be a much more labour-intensive job that involved more than just the batter. The families were in charge of collecting the syrup to pour over their pancakes, as well.
“We used to go out, visit all the farmers, bring the pails, let them fill them, then go pick them up and bring them down into the basement into the freezer, then bring them out and let them thaw, but we don’t have to do that anymore,” shared Kevin.
At the inaugural festival, the first generation of Batter Boys got a few more visitors than expected.
“That first year, they were just mixing in bowls by hand. Apparently, they ran out of everything,” said Glenn. “They had to go to the stores to find more batter. They had to scramble quite a bit.”
These days, the group uses a much more streamlined approach to mixing the pancake batter. The recipe hasn’t changed much, though.
“We have one big bucket with a big electric motor with a big beater bar on the end of it,” said Rick. “It just runs starting at 6:30 in the morning until you run out of batter. Then we’re in trouble. The mixer is probably 50 years old.”
While they aren’t sure exactly what went into the first batch of pancake mix 53 years ago, the boys say it isn’t much different. Now, they use a flour mixture they just add water to. They go through 35 20-kg boxes of the mix every year.
Benton is the youngest member of the Batter Boys. He is the fourth generation to join in on the volunteering and this is his third year lending a hand. He is already talking about taking over when the time comes. His dad says he does the heavy lifting.
The Batter Boys aren’t showing any sign of stopping their tradition of volunteering their time and efforts to the pancake cause any time soon. For Rick, it is all about knowing thousands of visitors are enjoying the pancakes fresh from the griddle thanks to their work.
“It is just amazing to know that people come for miles and miles and are eating our pancakes,” said Rick. “It could be raining, it could be snowing, and they are just lining up for these pancakes and you think to yourself, ‘how are we going to feed all these people?’ But, it goes to a good cause, and it is just fun to be a part of it.”
As for the group’s name, The Batter Boys, none of them are really sure where it came from.
“When you see us on the day of, it is easy to understand where the name comes from,” said Rick. “We are splattered from head to toe in batter.”
The Batter Boys can be found by the pancake tent on Apr. 1 at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.