JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla — (The video above is from a previous story)
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The countdown is nearing conclusion. The annual midnight premiere of Cinotti's Bakery's mouth-watering pumpkin doughnuts is Friday.
For 60 minutes until 1 a.m. or sooner if they sell out really quickly, bakery owner Mike Cinotti and his family will serve up the freshly made, subtly sweet and spiced fried rings of dough to customers who come from Jacksonville and beyond for a dozen or more.
Late Thursday night, friends and families will gather with neighbors and strangers to patiently wait in a line that routinely stretches from the bakery's front doors out into the parking lot.
"We'll have several hundred dozen of doughnuts done and ready to go by midnight," Cinotti told the Times-Union.
The first 30 to 45 minutes of that hour is "loud, exciting with people hollering and having a good time," he said. "And then it settles down as people realize it's one in the morning and they need to go home and get to bed."
Last year, Cinotti's made over 1,700 pumpkin doughnuts over a two-day period, beginning with the midnight Friday release, Cinotti said.
"I want to say that we did a little over a thousand dozen on the first day last year and then about 700 dozen the next day," Cinotti said.
Customers can pre-order the pumpkin doughnuts with either the traditional glaze or rolled in the bakery's signature cinnamon-sugar blend.
The family developed and perfected the from-scratch pumpkin doughnut recipe 18 years ago. Their signature pumpkin spice blend is a closely held secret family formula, he said.
Cinotti's makes a variety of other doughnuts, including chocolate, red velvet, blueberry and yeast doughnuts, too.
"But obviously, the pumpkin is the most popular one that we do in the last quarter of the year," he said. "It amazes me how popular they are. It's good, really a good doughnut but I just cannot believe the popularity of it."
Started by Mike Cinotti's grandfather 70 years ago, Cinotti's is a five-generation family bakery. Included in the bakery's staff of 30 are Cinotti's wife, Doodle, a couple of their grandkids, his brother and a nephew.
Cinotti's daughter, Michelle, came up with the idea for the midnight premiere of the pumpkin doughnuts about seven years ago.
Despite his initial doubts, they gave it a try. Cinotti conceded that he was surprised at the turnout, which grows each year.
"When you end up having 45 to 60 people at 10:30 on a Thursday night out in front of your place, lined up waiting to get in at midnight to get a dozen pumpkin doughnuts or how many they want. It's just mind-boggling to me," he said.
The midnight pumpkin premiere has become a tradition for many customers.
"I had a lady stop me in church the other day and say 'we're going to be there Thursday night to wait for the doughnuts.' The doughnuts are great, she said, but 'I'm going with my family because it's just tradition'," Cinotti said.
Cinotti's is open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The bakery is closed on Sunday and Monday.