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Pancake Day

Newcomers to Liberal might be amazed to see people dashing down Kansas Avenue on a chilly winter morning, pancake skillets clutched tightly to their apron-covered chests as they race. But that's just Pancake Day, a holiday practically every child in Liberal is familiar with before they reach age 5.

Pancake Day dates back to 1445. It always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, the day beginning the Lenten period. The holiday pancakes had their start as "shriving cakes" associated with the beginning of Lent.

The traditional- story maintains that in Olney, England, one woman was busy preparing her pancakes when the bell rang to go to church. She grabbed up skillet, pancake and all and ran in her apron to the church, becoming the first pancake racer. Cver the years, Olney became England's official Pancake Day celebration place.

Recent history has a strong tradition aimed at international-peace.

In 1949, the Liberal Jaycees were raising money for operating room equipment for Epworth Hospital by having a pancake feed. Shortly after ward, Liberal residents noticed a picture in Time magazine of a Shrove Tuesday race in Olney, England.

On Jan. 10, 1950, Liberal Jaycee R.J. Leete wrote to the Rev. R.W. Collins, vicar in Olney, to propose the international competition and to discover requirements of the race such as course length and attire.

"Let me emphasize that our Pancake Day observance will be in keeping with yours - a wholesome respite from the stresses and strains of an atomic age," Leete wrote.

The Rev. Collins wrote back on Jan. 15 to accept. Since then, Olney and Liberal have had a special relationship, keeping a running score of race winners and often sending representatives to witness the races.

The first year of the International Pancake Day Race was mentioned in the top 10 stories of the year. Pancake Day continues to make national and even international headlines each year.

Liberal's observance of Pancake Day will reach the half-century mark in 1999, and special 50th-Anniversary festivities for Feb. 12-16, 1999, are in the planning stages. The Pancake Day board has invited all past chairmen and race winner to attend the 1999 activities.

It takes a certain amount of ambition, or at least nerve, to run a quarter-mile race with a skillet in hand, and a pancake in the skillet - but that's nearly the only requirement to participate in the Liberal leg of the International Pancake Race.

What: Annual race against the women of Olney,
England, and related festivities.
Where: Downtown.
Hours: Race is on Shrove Tuesday-Feb 16, 1999.
Activities take place through weekend.
Phone: (316) 624-6427
Admission: Charges vary for activities. Viewing the race is free.

Entrants must be female, between ages 25 and 52, and residents of Liberal. In addition, they must have domestic duties, which does not mean they must be married but does mean they should be an adult member of their own household. They must race in skirts or dresses, aprons and head scarves. The pancake must be flipped at the beginning and end of the course.

In addition to the big intern additional race, Pancake Day includes a host of races for kids, men and seniors. For the record, all-racers are required to compete in the traditional garb, including head scarves and aprons.

The weekend's activities also include a pancake feed, eating and flipping contests, musical programs and a talent show, and other activities, varying from old-time artisans displaying their crafts to receptions with local and state dignitaries on hand.

For the past several years, Pancake Day has also hosted the Miss Liberal pageant competition during Pancake Day weekend. Most recently, the scholarship pageant, which is part of the Miss America pageant system, was organized and sponsored by the Liberal Jaycees.

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