The Gainesville Civic Center was the place to be Saturday morning.
The Kiwanis Club of Gainesville held its 47th pancake breakfast, and thousands of residents took their turn in line for the annual tradition.
"My wife, Kayanne, and I have been coming and enjoying this for over 40 years," Abit Massey said as he hugged and greeted friends coming in the door. "We enjoy every one of them, and the food and fellowship is fantastic."
The club ordered about 13 cases of pancake mix and 23 cases of sausage for the event, and more than 100 Kiwanis members showed up to mix batter at 5 a.m., cook pancakes from 7-11 a.m., take tickets or help clean.
"I've been doing this for more than 30 years - flipping pancakes or helping with parking - because it's a way to give back," said former state Sen. Lee Hawkins, who waved to familiar faces as he poured pancake batter. "You get to see your friends and neighbors, and everyone just gets together."
All proceeds from the $5 tickets go to various charities and programs that help children in Gainesville and Hall County, including scholarships. Tons of people shared tables and carried around plates of pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee.
"It's a tradition that brings the community together in the fall, and it's a special time each year," said Jordan Collins, 18, who attended with her father, state Rep. Doug Collins. "It's also good for the community to get to know people running in the election, and it's helpful for the politicians, too."
Elected officials and candidates were among the top donors for the pancake benefit.
But there was more friendship than politicking on Saturday. District Attorney Lee Darragh handed out raffle tickets while Hawkins poured pancakes and Collins ate with his family.
"It's really nice to meet people here. We've been residents in Gainesville for 15 years and try to come to this every year," said Francis Seelke, who sat with the Collins family and her husband, George. "We know Lee Hawkins socially and voted for him, but we didn't know the Collins family until we sat down with them."
The group raised about $25,000 last year and aimed to raise $26,000 this year for children's services around the county.
Jamey Moore, director of standards and assessment for Gainesville City Schools, noted his appreciation for the annual benefit for students as he stood in line with his three young children, Nate, Abi and Ali.
"This morning, my son, Nate, asked me if the number ‘1,012' on his ticket meant he could get that many pancakes," Moore said with a smile. "They're here with me this morning for a ‘Daddy date,' and then we're heading to the playground."