Buzzard Day fans happy with return to old elementary school

By Chris Studor

            What was old was new as the Vulture Culture returned to the former Hinckley Elementary School for the 67th Annual Buzzard Day celebration March 24.

This year’s celebration packed all Buzzard Day activities into one building, including the pancake breakfast, merchants’ and crafters’ hall, carnival games, as well as a live raptor display out on the front lawn of the school, which is now home to Hinckley Preparatory Academy.

            For two years, the event was held at the new Hinckley Elementary school on Ridge Road, with the Buzz Carnival located at the former fire station bay area at town hall. This meant shuttle buses were necessary, parking was tighter and the flow of activities was hampered a bit. The Hinckley Chamber of Commerce worked with the Hinckley Preparatory Academy to bring the event back to the old Hinckley Elementary School.

            “With the additional space, we were able to bring so much more back,” said Chamber President Mark Staron.  “We greatly appreciate Hinckley Prep offering us the building. “It was nice we could use a classroom with round tables for dining in addition to cafeteria tables with bench seats. The round tables allowed handicapped people to sit more easily and enjoy their breakfast. With this additional space, we are already starting to think of additional things we can do next year.”

            Staron estimated approximately 1,200 people enjoyed the pancake breakfast and about 5,000 attended the events throughout the building. For many, the return back to the former Hinckley Elementary brought back memories.

            It’s very nostalgic,” said Hinckley resident Angie Hinckelman who was there with her husband, Mark. “I used to do double shifts making pancakes for about 14 years. This is great having everything all under one roof again.”

            While nostalgic for some, it was an adventure for three sisters from Indiana who approached the building wearing colorful buzzard hats. Sisters Norma Null, Penny Guthrie and  Martha Definbaugh said they considered the trip “Just like a field trip,” adding that they surprised their sister Norma with a matching buzzard hat this year.”

            The three sisters blended right in with a number of volunteers from the Medina Raptor Center who displayed birds of prey on the school front lawn and talked about the rescue and rehabilitation work of the center and about the birds themselves.

            Executive Director of the Medina Raptor Center, Missy Jordan, explained that the center was started by her parents, Bill and Laura Jordan in the 1990s. Jordan said; “I have been interested in raptors all my life.”

            Raptor Center volunteers Glenn Feldhake, Meridith Teehan, Jaime Mautz, Jude Blankenship and Talle Sawyer, eagerly explained that Buzzards are officially known as turkey vultures with their red heads resembling wild turkeys. They added that although not the most attractive birds, buzzards serve a vital purpose in that their diet of trash, food waste and dead animals helps clean off streets and public areas.

            This might bring up the question, is the Buzzard Sausage served up with the pancakes really contain buzzard?” Well, the answer is no, just ask sausage king Dan Chorba who has been cooking up sausage with his crew of volunteers for years.

            “This is the best sausage ever,” said David Perish of Hinckley who was enjoying his meal with family members Izzy, Olive and Aunt Nana.

            “This is my ninth year coming to the breakfast,” said Perish. “I think the switch back to the old elementary worked out well, there’s more parking and everything is so accessible. It is also a trip down memory lane for the kids who recently went to school here.”

            Local businesses also sponsored games with plenty of prizes for the little ones, while Nate the Great created balloon animals for eager little hands and children’s faces turned into flowers, super heroes, and more at a number of face-painting stations. The merchant and craft stations filled the school’s gymnasium along with service groups, such as the Hinckley Chamber of Commerce selling special eclipse Buzzard Day shirts. Among the plethora of merchants, the Hinckley Women’s Club offered great deals on used books, Hinckley Arts and Crafts showcased hand-sewn goods and the Hinckley Historical Society sold historical items.

 By the smiles on guests’ faces as they left, its safe to say Buzzard Day 2024 was a hit.

            “It just went really, really well,” said Chamber Vice President Melissa Augustine. “People seem really happy with the set up, the food and all the activities we had to offer. It has been a very happy day for Hinckley.” ∞

A volunteer since 2008, Jaime Mautz
was among volunteers from the Medina
Raptor Center which brought birds of
prey to Buzzard Day. It wouldn’t be
Buzzard Day without the star of the
show to greet the vulture culture as they
entered Hinckley Elementary. Photos by
Chris Studor.

Dale Chorba (back, center) has worked with crew members for so many years cooking up Buzzard sausage that he has become known as the Sausage King. Chorba’s crew this year included (third row)Jason Chorba and Patrick Dolan, (middle row) Missy Schreiner, Chrisina Vomero, trustee Cindy Engleman, Christina McVay, Jim Bialosky, (front row) Sidney Partel and Allie Penra.

Not too young for pancakes and sausage is
little Linus with his mom, Amelia Hinkelman of Hinckley.