Snowbird breakfast draws crowd

January 13, 2001|By MARCY MISNER, Staff Writer

Saturday morning at Stark Field in El Centro, cars with out-of-state and out-of-nation license plates lined the parking lot, laughter and music filled the air and the smell of pancakes and ham mixed with the sounds of a hot-air balloon.

Later that morning, those same cars were filing out of the parking lot and people could be heard to say "Tee time's in 20 minutes!"

No complaints could be heard at Saturday's 16th annual Snowbirds Pancake Breakfast and Craft Show, sponsored by the El Centro Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau and local businesses who want to show their appreciation to those who choose to spend their winters in the Imperial Valley.

Marg and Murray Ingalls and Wanda and Lloyd Hutton, all of Hanna, Alberta, Canada were among about 1,300 visitors who enjoyed breakfasts served at this year's event.


Marg Ingalls said they choose to come to the Imperial Valley for the weather and the Rio Bend golf Resort resort nearly Seeley. The Huttons and the Ingalls live about four blocks from each other in Hanna, Alberta, in Western Canada.

"We can spend three months here and still have three months of winter when we get home," Wanda Hutton said. Her husband said he prefers the Imperial Valley over Yuma or Needles because it's not as windy.

"And it's not as expensive as Palm Springs," Marg Ingalls added with a laugh.

Wanda Hutton explained that although they've been coming to the Valley for seven or eight years, this is the first year she has attended the snowbird breakfast. She was pleasantly surprised with the event and she and the others walked around the craft section of the event, laughing and talking in the cool air and sunshine.

The weather took a turn for the better for Saturday's event after rain and fog earlier in the week.

Richard Acosta, chairman of the event, said this year's attendance was down slightly from last year, perhaps due to this week's weather, but he couldn't see decreased numbers as people filed past long, heated griddles filled with pancakes and ham cooking. The ham and flapjacks were flipped and coffee, juice, butter and syrup were handed out by members of the El Centro Rotary and Kiwanis clubs and the El Centro chamber.

Nancy Thornburg, a past chamber president, said she knows local merchants appreciate the snowbirds and hope the winter visitors tell others how much they enjoy the Imperial Valley when they return home.

Snowbirds filled tables, listening to the sounds of Fiddle Fare and Carroll Buckley of KXO radio, who joked and called out raffle winners who took home produce, free rounds of golf, free dinners and other prizes, compliments of this year's sponsors of the breakfast.

Volunteers from Turning Point Ministries cleaned tables when diners left to join the craft fair or take a free tethered hot-air balloon ride.

Ted and Barbara Blackburn of Spokane, Wash., said they began coming to the Valley about eight years ago after friends convinced them to winter here. They arrive about Oct. 22 and go home at the end of April or so, Ted Blackburn said. They spend their time here with about 36 other people, all from Spokane or the Pacific Northwest who travel together. In the summer they meet again up there. Ted and Barbara will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with the group this year on an Alaskan cruise, Ted Blackburn explained.

"We have more friends here than we have back home," they said.

Sisters Ruth King of Victoria, British Columbia and Donna Tamakr of Kamloops, British Columbia, travel together often from their homes in western Canada. They were leaving the breakfast to walk to the craft show Saturday.

They've been coming to the Valley for 10 years and to the breakfast for three, and enjoy this area's warm weather and hospitality. Then they walked off, arm in arm as Donna mentioned her husband was home digging a post hole while they had fun at the breakfast.

All in all, Acosta said, the weather cooperated and the breakfast was a great success, with help from many local service clubs whose members pitched in.

Staff Writer Marcy Misner can be reached at 337-3441.

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