The Bel Air Lions Club has spent 21 years serving pancakes and sausage to hundreds of Bel Air Independence Day revelers on the morning of July 4, but its members will not be manning the grills this year.
Harold Boccia, a Lions Club member and chair of the annual pancake breakfast, said he and his fellow Lions learned about three weeks ago they had been replaced.
"It was just announced very abruptly, with no explanation, and that was it after 21 years," Boccia said Thursday.
The pancake breakfast, a long-standing tradition of Bel Air's Independence Day festivities, is still on for this year, but the Bel Air High School Athletic Booster Club will run it.
"The Booster Club is a perfect fit for this event," Aaron Cahall, a spokesperson for the Bel Air Independence Day Committee Inc., wrote in an email Thursday. "The BAHS football team has helped out at the breakfast for the last few years, and the Booster Club has the personnel and enthusiasm to continue its long history of success."
Wehland noted the school administration asked the Boosters to handle the event, passing along a request from a Lions Club representative, since the event had been held at the school and football players made up a majority of student volunteers.
"We are still in the process of coordinating service and working with folks who managed the event in the past so we can be fully prepared to meet and uphold the expectations of this annual community event," he wrote.
The Lions Club is a nonprofit community service organization with local chapters across the country.
The Bel Air Lions Club has been in charge of the pancake breakfast since 1995.
"It's like a rite of passage on July 4," Boccia said. "Between 7 and 11:30, people went to the pancake breakfast and then they went to the other events."
The breakfast was held at Bel Air Middle School when the Lions Club took over, and about 300 people attended.
Attendance grew to about 600, and the breakfast was moved to the high school three years later. The school was on Kenmore Avenue then; the current building opened in 2009.
"We thought we died and went to heaven when they built the new school," Boccia recalled. "It had all the amenities you could ask for when you put on an event like this."
Boccia said about 85 volunteers worked at the 2015 breakfast, including Lions Club members and others from the community. They served all-you-can-eat pancakes to 2,217 people, or about one person every 45 seconds.
The pancakes were cooked on 10 stainless-steel grills outside, and patrons ate inside the school cafeteria.