THE INTERNATIONAL PANCAKE RACE
...Flipping and Running Competition Continues Between Olney, England
and Liberal, Kansas
Do you remember the scene in the 1983 classic film National Lampoon's Vacation when Clark W. Griswold, played
by Chevy Chase, talks about making a detour in Kansas to see the world's largest house of mud in Liberal?
If so, you probably also recall that Ellen Griswold (Beverly D'Angelo) nixed the idea ("Clark, let's just skip the house
of mud. I think Dodge City was enough fun for one day.").
Actually, the world's largest mud structure is the Great Mosque of Djenné, in central Mali, measuring about 75
meters by 75 meters (245 feet by 245 feet). The prayer hall alone measures 26 by 50 meters (85 by 165 feet and
occupies the eastern half of the mosque.
Or, according to other experts, the largest mudbrick building in the world is in 90-room Sultan Al Kathiri's palace in
Seyoun (sometimes spelled Seiyun), the regional capital of Wadi Hadhramaut, in Yemen.
Either way, Rusty's and Audrey's dad was off about 9000 miles, give or take a few hundred kilometers. But his
instincts were right. Truth is, even if the Griswolds wouldn't have seen the world's largest mud house, they could
have experienced numerous other sights in Liberal, a remarkable town located in the Southwest corner of Kansas,
just two miles from Oklahoma, 40 miles from Texas, and 70 miles from Colorado.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Take the Mid-America Air Museum, for example. It's the fifth largest collection of both civilian and military aircraft
(more than 100) in the United States, including the Aero Commander L-26 (smallest ever Air Force One, used by
President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1956-1960 for flights between the White House and his farm in Pennsylvania).
Or they could have visited the Seward County Historical Museum and gone through the Coronado Museum with
exciting displays from Native Americans who inhabited the area, items from Francisco Vásquez de Coronado's
expedition to the area in 1541, as well as the history of farming and ranching in the county.
Liberal is also home to The Land of Oz and Dorothy's House, re-creating timeless memories of the 1939 film, The
Wizard Of Oz, including a recreation of Dorothy's house and the famed Yellow Brick Road. The farmhouse where
Dorothy realized, "There's no place like home," was recognized as Dorothy Gale's official home by former Kansas
Governor John Carlin in 1981.The 5,000 square foot Land of Oz is a wonderland of animated "lions, and tigers, and
bears, oh my!" entertainment. That road features donated bricks bearing such names as former U.S. Senator Bob
Dole, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and Liza Minnelli.
Since National Lampoon's Vacation took place during the summer, the Griswolds could have traveled to Brent Gould
Field on the campus of Seward Community College and taken in a game featuring the Liberal Bee Jays, named
after baseball pioneer Byron Bancroft Johnson (creator of the American Baseball League), a semi-professional
baseball team that has won 1546 wins since beginning in 1955, 13 state championships (Jayhawk League), 50
National Baseball Congress (NBC) appearances, five national championships, (1968, 1979, 1985, 2000 and 2010),
sent 165 players to the major leagues (including two Cy Young Award winners) and been coached by three major
league managers and 13 state championships. The Bee Jays have been coached by three major league managers
and have sent 165 players to the major leagues. Local businesses buy out each home game making them free to
the public! They are truly part of the local legacy that makes the city of Liberal so memorable.
With that in mind, it seems that in 1445, a woman who wanted to use up all the cooking fats (forbidden during Lent)
But perhaps the most wonderful part of visiting Liberal,
from my own experience, is being there for there for the
International Pancake Race.
It takes place each year on Shrove Tuesday (like Mardi
Gras and Fat Tuesday—the day before Lent begins),
and the original races began 500 years ago in Olney,
Lent, of course, is the 40-day period of fasting and prayer
before Easter Sunday . According to the American Heritage
Dictionary, the “Shrove” in Shrove Tuesday comes from the
verb shrive (shrove, shriven) comes from the Old English
verb scrifan, “to decree, decree after judgment, impose a
penance upon (the penitent), hear the confession of.”
Therefore, Shrove Tuesday is traditionally the day to
reflect, to seek penance and get ready for Lent, the reason
for the shriving service, the religious component of the
Since the date of Easter changes each year, so does the
date for Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day)
can fall anywhere from early February to mid-March.
was hurrying to make pancakes at the last minute. When she heard the church bells ring calling everyone to the
shriving service, the apron-clad housewife grabbed her head scarf (required in church) and ran to the church with
skillet and pancake in hand.
In the ensuing years, neighbors thought it was such a novel idea that they decided
to hold a race from the town pump to the church (415 yards) and collect a "Kiss of
Peace" from the verger (bell-ringer.) The kiss, by the way, is still the traditional prize,
and racers today still wear head scarves and aprons, flipping her pancake at the
starting signal and again after crossing the finish line, to prove she still has her
Residents across the pond reportedly first heard of this event when a hometown
World War II American soldier and a Olney soldier discussed this unique race. So
began the flipping sprint on the windswept streets in Kansas town which now boasts
20,525 residents (2010 Census).
In 1950 the Liberal Jaycee President R. J. Leete contacted Rev. Ronald Collins,
Vicar of St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Olney, to an international race against the
fleet women of this southwest Kansas town. The rest, as people say, is history, and
since then the friendly competition has continued with women running 415 foot
course through the streets of the town flipping pancakes, the only race of its kind
in the world.
The races are run in Liberal and Olney simultaneously, even though Liberal is six hours behind. The overall score
stands at 36 wins for Liberal and 27 for Olney. In 1980 the score didn’t count, because a media truck blocked the
finish line in Olney.
The 2013 Pancake Day celebration stretched over four days in Liberal, beginning Sat. February 9 with pancake
flipping, eating and cooking contests. On Shrove Tuesday, February 12, at 11:55 AM, the race began again!
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|Olney's 2012 International Pancake Race winner Devon Byrne (left) crossed the finish line in 58 seconds, 10 seconds faster
than Liberal's Kaela Krueger (right), who passed Patty Rutledge during in the last 15 yards of the Kansas race.
(Photo Courtesy of Leader & Times - Earl Watt)
|Welome Sign on
U. S. Route 83
(Photo by Billy Hathorn)
|568 Years Later...
Liberal’s Caitlin Demarest prepares to cross the tape to win Liberal’s leg of the 2013 International Pancake Race in a time of 64.3
seconds. Her time was nearly eight seconds behind Olney’s Devon Byrne who completed the course in 56 seconds to set a new
world record earlier in England. (Photo Courtesy of Leader & Times - Earl Watt)