TOWANDA - An Army isn't the only thing that moves on its stomach. So do Boy Scouts. So do small towns. Just ask Troop 56, which is hosting its 50th annual all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage meal from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Towanda Grade School.
If weather is good, the event may draw as many as 1,200 folks from miles around, organizers said.
"It's a big thing," said Mike Potts, who has a hard time remembering how he became volunteer dinner chairman about 15 years ago.
His wife, Linda, helps with publicity.
Their sons, Michael and Matt, who were both members of the troop, volunteer each year. Michael, 31, usually helps staff the table where people pick up their advance orders for sausage, ribs and bacon. Matt, 27, has been churning out batter since he was 16.
It's been so long, he's earned the nickname "Batter Boy."
"I've been there every year since," said Matt, now an agent with Country Insurance and Financial Services. "They never let me leave."
At his wedding rehearsal dinner, the caterers began serving the head table from plates of pancakes and sausage. " Do we have to eat this?' " asked his bride-to-be, Heather.
There's no trick to the scouts' pancake recipe, he said. It's just add water and mix.
"It's not brain surgery. That's probably while they let me do it," said Matt, who rose to Eagle Scout after joining scouting at age 7 as a Cub Scout.
As the sole mixer, it's his job to keep the pancake flippers in batter all day long. "It never stops," he said.
Sometimes, the people with spatulas in hand can be a tough crowd to please, complaining his mix is too thick or too runny, he said. "I tell them it's an operator problem, not a material problem," he joked.
Planning begins in December with ticket sales and advance meat orders.
Putting on an event that draws twice as many people than live in Towanda is no small task, at least not like it was 50 years ago when about 100 people were fed with one butchered hog.
Before concern for health codes, people once did their own butchering, Mike Potts said. Now, more than 50 hogs are butchered to produce 3,500 pounds of sausage and other cuts. Chenoa Locker provides the meat.
In addition to Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, about 100 people volunteer to put on the event. Some, like long-time Scout treasurer Lyle Merritt, date to the early days. Others have T-shirts proclaiming themselves as "the Sausage Cartel."
Many of the people who help never were connected to scouting. As people in small towns do, they just answered a call.
"In small towns, that's what it's like," said Mike Potts, describing why he and his wife moved to Towanda in the early 1970s when he returned from Vietnam. "We love it. The kids are grown and gone. But, we're there forever."
The money from fund-raiser defrays costs for the boys, who go on regular camping trips plus more adventure-filled excursions ranging from Canada to Florida. Matt Potts remembers going to climb in the Dakotas, sailing a 52-foot vessel in the ocean and white-water rafting.
"It did so much for me, making me grow up," Matt said. "It's good to give back. I don't do half as much as other people do."
Matt and Heather have a future Boy Scout due in April. Matt, who lives in the Twin Cities, plans to take his son back to Towanda to join Troop 56 when it's time.
"Batter Boy" just might have some help in years to come. "He'll definitely be at the pancake and sausage supper. I can guarantee that," he said.
Ready to eat?
What: Troop 56's 50th annual pancake and sausage meal
When: 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Towanda Grade School
Tickets: Adults, $4.50 in advance, $5 at the door; children, $2.50 in advance, $3 at the door. Tickets are available at Read Sporting Goods in Normal, Towanda Grain Co. or from any member of Towanda Scouting.
Advance meat orders: (309) 728-2384. Meat pick up is from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Community Building and from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the grade school.
What else: A country store at the Community Building and the grade school during meat pick-up times; a limited amount of sausage, ribs, bacon and tenderloin will be available.