ITHACA, N.Y. — Pancakes on election day served by the Ithaca Rotary Club are a 45-year local tradition.

Coltivare’s kitchen was full of volunteers Tuesday cooking hashbrowns, eggs, and sausages, packing cups of applesauce, yogurt and cantaloupe, and of course, flipping blueberry and plain pancakes. The Ithaca Rotary Club serves anywhere from 800 to 1,200 people. The club began serving people at 7 a.m. and will continue until 7 p.m., just a couple hours shy of polls closing.

Proceeds from the breakfast support Ithaca Rotary’s Youth International Exchange Program. This year, they have one student studying abroad in India and are hosting one student from Sardinia. The exchange program lets students ages 15 to 19 study abroad in more than 100 countries for either a full academic year or a short-term trip.

Mary Berens, president of the Ithaca Rotary Club, said the student exchange program has existed since the mid-60s in Ithaca. She added that they are always looking for families to host exchange students for three months.

Behind the scenes, anywhere between 50 and 60 volunteers work to make the breakfast run smoothly.

Volunteer Scott Whitham prepares pancakes Tuesday morning. (Photo by Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)

For many years, the pancake breakfast was held at the Women’s Community Building on West Seneca Street in Ithaca until that turned into apartments, it was then hosted at the VFW until finding its way to Coltivare at 235 S. Cayuga St., Ithaca.

Since 1973, the club’s election day pancake breakfast has been an Ithaca tradition that brings the community together.

“I think it’s a good time to be a community on election day,” Berens said. “Even though most of us vote in different polling places, it’s just a very community-minded day.”

In addition to the traditional pancake breakfast, the Ithaca Rotary Club is hosts several other events in the community, like the Share the Warmth campaign and recently the Ithaca Rotary Community Fireworks. They also have a fundraiser coming up, the Dozen Dinner Draw, where people can buy tickets to be entered in a drawing for restaurant gift certificates. The proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Cornell University’s AguaClara Program, which develops community-scale water treatment technologies to get safe drinking water to underserved communities.

The 45th Annual Election Day Rotary Pancake Day will go until 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6. The cost is $9 for adults and free for kids under 12. For more information visit the Facebook event page.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.