It was challenging, to say the least, to explain to my kids why 600 Santa Clauses were swarming around our hotel last week. Honestly, you'd think an organization whose raison d'etre is hoodwinking youngsters would hold its convention somewhere a little more clandestine than Gatlinburg during spring break.
"Is that the real Santa?" my 4-year-old whispered as a portly and bearded conventioneer in red sweat pants wedged into the elevator with us. "Or THAT one?" he asked as we passed the St. Nick eating a corn dog in front of Ripley's Believe It or Not. "Or THAT one?" he said, pointing to a jolly old elf buying tickets for the Aquarium.
But that level of confusion was nothing compared to our family's dismay upon seeing the site photographed above. Yes, that is a Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg. And yes, it is the real one.
Our server was quick to explain that the Gatlinburg Pancake Pantry was founded in 1960, a year before the Nashville landmark flipped its first flapjack. Today the Hillsboro Village store is owned separately and still purchases the proprietary pancake batter from the flagship store.
Sure, our meal was great, from the fast and friendly service to the steaming plates of fluffy silver dollar cakes and crisp bacon. Still, I couldn't help feeling a little deflated learning that the most celebrated bastion of breakfast in my hometown was, gasp, a spin-off. What are you going to tell me next? Does my husband have another family? Is there a Prince's Hot Chicken in Pigeon Forge? Is there no such thing as Santa Claus?
At least we know that's not the case. We've seen the real thing--600 times.