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Lewistown’s pancake breakfast will be back — but ‘Pancho’ won’t

LEWISTOWN — The Lewistown Kiwanis Club holds its pancake breakfast each year, and has done so since the late 1950s. And each year, it has featured a character — initially the mascot for Aunt Jemima pancakes, then Pancho Pancake.

But this year, after some internal deliberation and some criticism received from outside sources, the local Kiwanis Club has chosen to hold its annual event without Pancho for the first time in more than a half century.

“There’s been talk in the club — I can’t say I was the moving force behind it — but there were some people in the club more sensitive than I was to it,” said Ed Lerch, the project chairman for the Kiwanis pancake breakfast. “With more of a Latino community in the area now and with other mascots like this going out by the wayside, we felt it was time for us to move on.”

Pancho Pancake, for the debate surrounding the character’s appropriateness in this day and age, has been a tradition that dates to 1966 when the late former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno served as the first Pancho. Each year since, the local Kiwanians have tried to select someone who was “prominent for good reasons,” according to Lerch. It had become an honor to be chosen.

“From our perspective and past history, Pancho was always sort of an honorary position that was bestowed on someone that was an important part of our communities,” Lerch said. “It got to the point where people would ask to be Pancho Pancake.”

Despite the end of a local tradition, Lerch still believes the community will support the Kiwanis Club and the annual breakfast.

“We’ve always felt our biggest draw is the secret recipe for the pancakes,” he said. “It’s a good, hearty meal at a great price and it benefits the community. All funds go to the Kiwanis Community Service Fund, which helps children.”

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