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Shalersville’s pancake breakfast turns 30

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Shalersville – Sunlight has not edged over the horizon yet when Virginia Goodell pulls into the parking lot of the Shalersville Townhall. The parking lot soon will be filled and the air will soon smell like maple syrup, but not yet. Right now, the only sounds are the hiss of pancakes frying on the griddle and the pop of percolating coffee. Every year for the last 30 years, the Goodell family and friends host pancake breakfasts in the hall. They regularly serve more than 500 people in less than six hours. “It’s a lot of work,” Virginia Goodell says while directing servers to their tables. “We’ve served 800 people in one day. That’s just way too much. It’s a mob.” There were people waiting for their pancakes and maple syrup even before the doors opened March 11. Jean Call, who has been to the breakfasts since they first started in 1982, was one of the first to arrive. “The food’s good,” Call said, adding the family-like atmosphere of the annual breakfasts has not changed in the last three decades. “It’s a nice place to come and eat because it’s like home.” Sally Ruggless, another long-time attendee, agreed. “It’s been our ritual for 25 years,” she said. “It’s the perfect way to get spring started.” The tradition has spanned generations. While Virginia Goodell oversees the servers, her grandson Nathan keeps the breakfast humming along. “When we average 500 people a Sunday, it gets pretty tight in the hall,” Nathan Goodell said. “We’ve had our regulars bring in friends from out of state to experience it.” The Goodells also sell their maple syrup products, ranging from candy to the more traditional gallon jugs, at the breakfast. Each item was made by syrup tapped from trees on their Mantua farm and, Nathan added, is quite famous. “Whenever we go overseas, we bring our syrup with us,” Nathan said. “Maple syrup is certainly unique to this area and ours has made it around the world.” The syrup served at the breakfasts was made in the last month, he added. “We started producing maple syrup in February and will continue as long as we can,” Nathan said. “The syrup we serve is brand new.” That syrup is one reason why area residents Joe and Diane Phillips have been to the breakfasts every year for more than a decade. “The great sausage, great pancakes and great syrup,” Joe said, explaining why the family keeps coming back, and friendly faces are another plus. “We’ve seen a lot of the servers grow up and go to college. It’s like family.” Those servers are a crew of more than 20 family and friends who keep the plates full of all-you-can-eat sausage and pancakes while refilling mugs of coffee, tea or orange juice. This was the first year serving for Crestwood High School student Alaina Nuti, 15. “I was a little nervous the first Sunday,” Nuti said, adding, “but this is so much fun. It’s like family here and it smells so good.” That smell would be the thousands of plain and buckwheat pancakes being made and the more than 13 gallons of maple syrup that would be used to top them. Adults pay $7.50 for a plate while children four-years-old and up pay $4. Children three-years-old and younger eat free. March 18 will be the last Sunday this year to enjoy the breakfasts. “Get here early,” Diane Phillips said. “The line gets long.” For more information, visit the Goodell’s family farm website at goodellfamilyfarm.com.