Ready … set … flip!
When the starting gun goes off, ladies in Liberal Kansas flip a pancake in the skillet they hold, and take off on a course to the Finish Line.
This for the annual International Pancake Day Race, where they compete against one another – and also compete against ladies in Olney, England. It is held every Shrove Tuesday. This year the Race is March 5th. For Liberal, it marks the 70th year in participation. Visitors are invited to the celebration.
Here are details!
The Pancake Day Race started in 1445 in Olney, England.
’Tis said that this all began with a haggard housewife, who was still making pancakes when the church bells rang to indicate the beginning of Shriving service. She took off to get to church on time.
She was in such a hurry, she grasped her skillet of pancakes en way. She had taken care to put on a headscarf, that was required in church at that time, and she was still wearing her apron.
’Twas noted enough to inspire a tradition, that began an actual Pancake Day race to the church. For over 500 years, women in Olney raced one another, skillet of pancakes in hand, to make the best time.
Liberal enters the Race
In January 1950 the president of the Liberal Jaycees, R.J. Leete, took interest in a magazine article he read about the Olney Pancake Day Race, and took action.
Mr. Leete contacted the Reverend Ronald Collin, the Vicar of Olney – to challenge the ladies of Olney on behalf of ladies of Liberal.
The Vicar accepted the challenge. “The race is on!” he declared.
And now, ’twas up to the ladies of each city, to engage in the competition. The first race that they competed with one another was Shrove Tuesday, February 21st 1950. They have been competing every year since.
About Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday is celebrated the day before Lent. Some traditions recognize this day as “Fat Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras.” This is exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday.
Across traditions this Tuesday includes a feast. For those celebrating Shrove Tuesday the feast begins in the morning, with pancakes before church.
This because pancakes combined eggs, flower and milk. Back in the 1400s all three of these ingredients were extravagances. We love pancakes now, yet perhaps back then, they were even more delicious to the palate, than any of us may understand in modern day.
But of course, we do love pancakes in modern day!
About Pancake Day
Shrove Tuesday also became known as “Pancake Day” in England, and the tradition eventually crossed to the United States.
Olney extended the tradition to a race. This to tag back to the first woman, whoever she was, who ran the gauntlet from home to church, holding tight to her skillet of pancakes.
The International Pancake Day Race
The Pancake Day Race became International in 1950, when ladies in Liberal entered the competition against ladies “across the pond” in Olney.
Now, ladies in both camps abide by these rules to honor the tradition:
● Ladies toeing the startline wear skirts, aprons, and headscarves.
● They hold a skillet with a pancake that they flip at the start and at the end of the race.
● They run a 415-yard course to the Finish Line. They need to have at least a portion of their pancake remaining in the skillet, to qualify for finish.
The course in each community:
Since the Olney race course is along a cobblestone street, the Liberal course is on Kansas Avenue, along an historic stretch that is laid in bricks.
● The Finish Line for Olney is at the St. Peter and St. Paul church.
● The Finish Line for Liberal is at the Pancake Day Hall of Fame. This is about a block and a half from the First United Methodist church.
Timed races: honored by both cities at 11:55 a.m.
● Olney time is 6 hours ahead of Liberal.
● So, essentially, the Olney race at their 11:55 a.m. begins at the Liberal 5:55 a.m. time., and the Liberal 11:55 a.m. race begins at the Olney 5:55 p.m.
Both races are timed. Both communities connect for a video chat after the Liberal race. Here, the winners of each race congratulate one another. And, the administrators compare the winners’ race times to see which city won.
To date, Olney holds the record for the best time in the race, and Liberal holds the record for having won the most races.
Liberal extends the celebration!
The Pancake Day Race is so beloved in the community, they begin celebration the Saturday before. Festivities include a Talent Show, a pancake flipping contest, and side races for men and kids.
About 2,000 folks attend the Pancake Breakfast, Pancake Day morning.
And, Liberal school kids get Pancake Day off, to partake in festivities.
The annual event concludes Tuesday afternoon with a Pancake Day Parade.
You’re invited to join the celebration!
Visitors are invited to engage in this annual tradition. They may imbibe with the locals:
● To watch the Talent Show auditions and finals.
● To join Liberal residents in the Pancake Breakfast before the International Race.
● And, of course, to cheer on the race, Shrove Tuesday, as ladies from Liberal race against ladies from Olney.
This is a unique chance to engage in a celebrated tradition, and to touch elbows with Liberalites, most of whom have been celebrating this tradition since they were tots.
Some International Pancake Day Race events require tickets, or a Pancake Day button. View the 2019 schedule here: Events Schedule.
***This City Spotlights feature is brought to you by Visit Liberal.