It's that time of year again, when residents from Liberal, and all over Kansas come together to compete against Olney, England to see who the fastest flippers and swiftest sprinters are in the annual International Pancake Day celebration.
This year, the events are set for Feb. 9 through 12. The long weekend will be filled with pancake-related events including the eating/flipping contests, cooking contests, a talent show, a parade, pancake breakfasts and the international race followed by a shriving service.
According to the Pancake Day website, www.pancakeday.net, more than 60 years ago, the Liberal Jaycees President, R.J. Leete, saw a picture in a magazine of women in Olney, England racing to a church with frying pans in their hands, and decided to challenge the town to a little friendly competition.
Why were the women in Olney racing? It's a tradition that dates back over 500 years.
Legend has it that in 1445 on Shrove Tuesday, a woman in Olney was frantically cooking pancakes to try and use up the last of her cooking fat, which was forbidden during Lent. Suddenly, the church bells started ringing calling everyone in town to church. The woman was in such a hurry that she grabbed her headscarf, required in church, and rushed out of the house, still wearing her apron and with her skillet in her hand.
In following years neighbors began to join in and it became a race to see who could reach the church first.
This year's event
There's still time left to sign up for all the Pancake Day events. Parade entries will be accepted until Feb. 6. The parade, sponsored by the Liberal Rotary Club, will take place at 3 p.m. Feb. 12. The theme is "Peace through Service." Floats will be judged in five categories; commercial, non-profit, schools, antique automobiles and antique equipment, each entry will be judged on; creativity, originality, effort and theme.
After the parade, awards will be presented in each division. First place will receive $150, second, $100 and third, $50.
"It's a pretty good size parade," Jo Ann Combs, executive secretary for International Pancake Day said. "We have at least 30 entries that are entered into the judging, not including the bands and politicians who are still in it, but aren't judged."
Four races will be run on the 12th as well. The first are the Children's Races, where Liberal children aged 3 to 18 race. They begin at 9:30 a.m. Then, there is the Last Chance race, open to all women 50 years and older, which takes place at 11:30 a.m. Then, there's the Men's Pacer Race for any men interested in putting on an apron and headscarf and racing through Liberal. The Men’s race takes place at 11:50 a.m. Finally, there's the International race, where the women of Liberal compete against the women of Olney to see who can make it to the church fastest. The final race takes place at 11:55 a.m.
Page 2 of 2 - Anyone interested in participating can pick up their registration forms beginning Saturday. Registration will be open until Feb. 1.
Entries are also still being accepted for the cooking contest. Entrants for this contest must be at least 12-years-old or older. The challenge is to create a unique dish using pancake mix. According to the website; the dish can be sweet, savory a twist on an old favorite or something completely opposite of a traditional 'pancake', it just must include pancake mix.
Entry forms for all events are available at www.pancakeday.net, or are available by contacting (620) 624-6423.
Combs has been to more International Pancake Days than she can remember, and she says that her favorite part each year is watching the kids race.
"They run right past my office window, and they are so much fun to watch," she said. "Especially the little ones. They just get out there and run, they don't even understand why."
Combs also was quick to praise all the hardworking volunteers who make International Pancake Day possible each year.
Follow Julia on Twitter, @Julia_dcglobe