Liberal, KS-The International Pancake Day Race, a tradition between Olney, England and Liberal, KS will take place, February 21st, 2023. This is the 74th year of the race on this side of the pond, but in Olney, England, the Pancake Race tradition dates back nearly 600 years to 1445.
A woman engrossed in using up cooking fats (forbidden during Lent) was making pancakes. Hearing the church bells ring calling everyone to the shriving service, she grabbed her head scarf (required in church) and ran 415 yards to the church, skillet and pancake in hand and still apron clad. In following years, neighbors got into the act and it became a race to see who could reach the church first and collect a “Kiss of Peace” from the verger (bell-ringer).
A TIME magazine picture of the Olney women racing each other to the church caught the eye of Liberal Jaycee’s President, R.J. Leete. He contacted the Rev. Ronald Collins, Vicar of St. Peter and St. Paul’s church in Olney, challenging their women to race against women of Liberal. With that, we were off to the races!
This 74th year of racing also marks the 250th anniversary of the writing of the familiar hymn “Amazing Grace”. Why is that special to Pancake Day? The words to this hymn were first spoken during a service on January 1, 1773, by John Newton, curate of Olney’s St Peter and St Paul’s Church, the very church where the Pancake Day Race was born.
Although both countries have accessorized the day with a fun sporting event between the two communities, the primary reason for Pancake Day is based around the preparation for Lent. On both sides of the Atlantic the race still culminates with Shriving Services that feature the singing of “Amazing Grace” as an integral part of the service, and on this 250th year, it will be extra special.
The Liberal Recreation Department, 950 S. Grant, kicks off this year’s events, Saturday, February 18th, with the Pancake Chase 5k followed by Eating & Flipping contests. The Grand Marshall’s Reception, open to the public, will be February 20th at the Baker Arts Center. All other International Pancake Day events for February 21st. can be found at https://www.pancakeday.net .
“This will be my second Pancake Day that I am directly involved in, and it still makes me just as excited as when I learned about it, three years ago”, said International Pancake Day Coordinator, Kara Howery. “This is such a fun, playful tradition and I love seeing people come from all around the nation and even the world, to check it out. And to share this year with “Amazing Grace” is really quite touching. The hymn means so much to many, many generations of people. We are truly blessed to be sharing it with generations to come, even through something as whimsical as International Pancake Day.”
2023 International Pancake Day Race Bios
#1 Isabelle Sullenger
Occupation- Teacher at Seymour Rogers Middle School
Mrs. Sullenger has lived in Liberal the past 9 years. “I decided to run this year because I competed last year and enjoyed the experience.” This will be Mrs. Sullenger’s second time racing. In 2022, she placed 2nd. Sullenger’s husband Aaron Sullenger also plans to race in the Men’s Pacer Race. Her advice for first time racers: “Go into the race with the mindset that you’re going to run for the experience!”
#2 Ashlyn Cooh-Huggins
Occupation- Collegiate Livestock Judge
Ashlyn is in her freshman year at SCCC. She has lived in Liberal for the past 5 months. “I am running in this year’s race in solidarity with my judging teammate for being the lowest scoring teammate on the judging team. Our Coach B is bringing a heavy cast iron [skillet] so our flipping arm is strong to help us prepare for the race.”
#3 Brittney Colvin
Occupation- Dental Hygienist
Brittney has lived in Liberal for 32 years. “I decided to run this year because my kids are running and I thought it would be cool if we all ran the same year. I am preparing by continuing my daily exercise routine. My daughter Kambelle will run with the 11 year old girls and son Slade in the 7 years old boys division.”
#4 Lindsay Bennett
Occupation- Stay at home mom
Lindsay has lived in Liberal now for the past three years. “I’ve gotten all positive reactions from friends and family so far! I am preparing for the race with weights and cardio. Both of my daughters Marybelle and Madeline are racing.”
#5 Mikayla Knudsen
Occupation- AMSA at VA Medical Center
Mikayla has lived in Liberal the past 33 years. Why did you decide to enter this year’s race? “Because I can!” If you have raced before, what, if anything, will you do differently this year? “Not much!” Her advice for first time racers: “Breathe & hydrate”
#6 Marcala Steckel
Occupation- Stay at Home Mom
Marcala has lived in Liberal the past 26 years. “I decided to enter this year’s race because my cousin is running.” Describe the reactions you’ve gotten from friends and family so far? Excited!! “My advice to first time racers is to have fun with it!”
#7 Raquel Marasky
Occupation- Marasky Media
Raquel has lived in Liberal for the past 7 months. Why did you decide to enter this year’s race? “How often does one come across an event like this? I’ve enjoyed learning the history, the competition with Olney and I’m excited to compete!” “I’ve been preparing for the race by doing endurance and sprints training on my treadmill.”
#8 Cindy Nallely Medrano
Occupation- Sales Assistant
Cindy has lived in Liberal for the past 20 years. “My employer encouraged me to enter this year’s race.” Describe the reactions you’ve gotten from friends and family so far? “Most don’t know, co-workers are pushing me to do it.” “As I prepare for the race I am physically okay, but mentally nervous and anxious.”
#9 Reece Hay
Reece has lived in Liberal her entire life. “I decided to race this year because my sister, Whitney, (two time winner) talked me into it and I think it would be fun.” Hay is also using the race as motivation to work out. “I am preparing for the race by running and working out at the Rec Center daily.”
#10 Tessy Barnett
Occupation- Office Assistant
Tessy has lived in Liberal for the past 24 years. Tessy has run in the International race every year since starting back in 1999. “I entered this year’s race for my health and to keep fit.” “I don’t do anything specific to prepare for the races. I prepare everyday by staying active.” What advice do you have for first time racers? JUST DO IT!!
#11 Alondra Brito
Occupation- HR Clerk
Alondra has lived in Liberal the past 22 years. She decided to run in this year’s Pancake Day Race for fun and the experience. She has gotten great support for racing from friends and family. “They are excited! Very supportive and happy I’m racing this year.”
#12 Pamela Rosales
Occupation- Heavenly Wisdom Creations
Pamela has lived in Liberal the past 24 years. Why did you decide to enter this year’s race? Something new she said. “I haven’t had any reactions yet [from friends and family] but I’m pretty sure they will be very surprised!” “To prepare for the race I’ve been going to the gym and doing it mentally with my sister who passed away 3 years ago.”