Dreary early morning skies delayed the crowd at the Laguna Beach Exchange Club's annual pancake breakfast, but folks more than made up for it once when the sun broke through.
"It was the biggest crowd ever," said Sande St. John, who has been organizing the breakfasts for more than 20 years. "We fed over 800 people."
St. John keeps track by counting the plates used. This year, the last folks in line were served sausages and pancakes on paper napkins.
Memorial Day began early for the volunteers who helped make the day memorable. Coastal Taxi's George Kiepper reported in at 3:30 a.m., ready to load supplies into his cab for transport to Heisler Park. Mormon missionaries, Pedro Ortiz, Danny Moy and Nico McManus arrived at 5:30 to help load and unload.
"The park is pristine, thanks to the efforts of John O'Hara and Reggie Christian from the city Parks Department," St. John said.
Grills were fired up and ready to go when some of Laguna's homeless population arrived for breakfast at 7 a.m.
Among the firefighters who flipped flapjacks: Chip Gilmore, Scott Hammond, Kurt Bladergroen, Ian DaCosta, Rob Abijay, Sean Daugherty, Jeff White, Pat Brennan, Tony Carlson, Api Weinert, Zack De John, Tom Padden and John Kuzmic.
Helpers included Weinert's son, Trevor, and Cody LaTendresse, son of Deputy Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse, who was the chief stirrer of pancake mix donated by the White House, which went along with the sausages donated by Las Brisas.
When Dave Lopez wasn't behind the grill, he was playing a bagpipe to entertain the crowd.
"He made the event, he made my day; in fact, he made my whole month worthwhile," said the always industrious St. John.
Entertainment was also provided by Laguna Tots singer April Walsh, violinist Doug Miller and Magic Matt. Children loved climbing on the 1931 Seagrave pumper engine and getting junior firefighter helmets from retired Fire Capt. Eugene D' Isabella.
The Police Employees Assn. was represented by President Larry Bammer, Nikie Hernandez, Natalie Leal; the Marine Safety Department by Lifeguard Kai Bond.
Mai Huynh donated the water and Ken Kenworthy made gallons of coffee. Other volunteers included Connie Burlin, Marion Rice, Donna and Danielle Gee, the children of Community Outreach Officer Jason Farris, former Mayors Cheryl Kinsman and Steve Dicterow, Kathryn Delp Dew, Anne Wood, Pat Freeman and Jim Rue.
John and Jan Guyette, Dorothy and Hank Benedict and Helen Diamond were among the early arrivals. The youngest at the breakfast: two-week old Caleb Cornell with his "big brother," 21-month-old Jacob and their parents, Michelle and John.
A speech to remember
The Memorial Day Ceremony in Laguna this year was made more memorable by the words of a man whose actions speak louder than his words.
"A hero should be here to speak to you today," said Federal Judge David O. Carter. "I am not a hero."
Could have fooled most folks there. Carter lives in Laguna, belongs to American Legion Post 222. Locals know that he was wounded in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart — not given for a quick mind, good looks and eloquent speeches, though all are attributes of the judge.
He continues to fight for his country today on a different battlefield, the courtrooms of countries who have no concept of civil liberty, traveling to global hot spots to teach America's system of jurisprudence.