You say Shrove Tuesday; I say Pancake Day–The 2021 Pandemic edition!

Happy Pancake Day!!!  In 2019 I wrote the blog post below about the annual Pancake Day race competition between Liberal, Kansas USA and Olney, England.  They’ve been holding the annual trans-Atlantic race for more than 70 years.  I swore I’d try to attend the Liberal KS Pancake Day race in 2020.  Then it was cancelled for the then-new Covid-19 pandemic.  Now it’s 2021 and the event had to be cancelled for a second year for the pandemic.  So here I am looking back at the events and vowing to get there in 2022. Have a lovely day, and maybe some pancakes. (US and UK pancake recipes are at the bottom of the post.)

skill cooking GIF

(The original post from 2019)

They say it started more than 500 years ago, when on Shrove Tuesday (the day before the start of Lent), a housewife in England was cooking at her stove, heard the bell for church, and dashed from her house to the church still wearing her apron and carrying her skillet.

Today it is an annual international women’s race, in which the participants wear a housedress, headscarf and apron, and must carry a skillet with a pancake in it, and flip the pancake.

The event takes place in Olney, England and Liberal, Kansas USA.  Each town holds a race, and the fastest finish time wins the international contest.

(Picture from Olney’s website)

A multi-day festival has grown up around the event.  Each town maintains a Pancake Day website; and each maintains a Facebook page, which is great for enthusiasts like me who want real-time updates on race day.

How the International Pancake Day Race came about:

Each of the two cities’ websites gives a brief history of the Pancake Day Race.  Since each site provides a fact or two that the other one doesn’t, I’ve included both.  But hey, the best thing to do is visit both websites for more history and photos of past events.

From the Liberal, KS site: 

“In Olney, England, the Pancake Race tradition dates back more than 500 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 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.)


“It all started in 1950 from a magazine picture of the Olney women racing each other to the church. Liberal Jaycee President R.J. Leete 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.  Like in Olney, the traditional prize of the race is the “Kiss of Peace” from the verger (bellringer).”

From the Olney, UK site:

“No one is quite certain how the world famous Pancake Race at Olney originated. One story tells of a harassed housewife, hearing the shriving bell, dashing to the Church still clutching her frying pan containing a pancake. Another tells that the gift of pancakes may have been a bribe to the Ringer, or Sexton that he might ring the bell sooner; for ringing the bell signalled the beginning of the day’s holiday and enjoyment, no less than to summon the people to the service at which they would be shriven of their sins before the long Lenten feast.

“Tradition declares that the race was first run in the year 1445, pancakes at the time being a popular dish, receiving royal favour. It was run on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent, and the whole day was given over to a festival of celebration, pranks and pastimes. It is not known where the original start line was but the finish line was at the Church door.

“The race continued through the centuries, and whilst many other local customs died, and the race itself may have lapsed many times, such lapses never caused the race to be entirely forgotten by the womenfolk of Olney. It is known to have taken place during the troublesome times of The War of the Roses (1445 to 1487).


“After a lapse during the Second World War, it was revived again in 1948 by the Vicar of Olney the Reverend Canon Ronald Collins. In clearing out a cupboard he came across some old photographs, which had obviously been taken in the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties of women running with frying pans. Filled with enthusiasm to revive the ancient custom, he called for volunteers, and in response thirteen runners appeared on Shrove Tuesday that year. The race immediately caught the popular imagination and people of Olney set out to enjoy this simple and colourful link with their rich past, a day of festivities.


“In 1950 the race became an International event. A challenge was received from the town of Liberal in Kansas, USA, where they had, after seeing the press photographs of the race at Olney, conceived the idea of setting up a similar custom. Olney readily accepted the challenge and, in a spirit of international goodwill and friendship, the two towns now compete annually and prizes are exchanged. The race is run on a timed basis.”


  • At 11:55 am Olney time (5:55am Central US time), the Olney Race begins.
  • At 11:55 am Liberal time (5:55pm Olney UK time), the Liberal race begins.

The (updated) weather forecast for today (February 16, 2021) at what would have been race time:

  • Olney:  Partly cloudy and 50°F with a SW wind of 13 mph, causing a feels-like temp of 45°F.
  • Liberal:  Cloudy and -6°F with a SE wind of 15 mph, causing a feels-like temp of -18°F.

Don’t be fooled by the dresses, aprons and skillets; these races are legit athletic contests.  So, what is the actual race like?  Here is a recent video from each side of the pond:

The Olney, UK race (2012)

The Liberal, KS USA race (2014)

Attending these two Pancake Day races is a bucket list item for me.  It’s only a 3.5 hour drive for me to Liberal, KS, but Tuesdays pose a problem.  Once again this year, work has intervened to keep me from going.  Next year, Pancake Day is on Tuesday, February 25.  I shall try again.

I love to eat pancakes, so pancakes must be included in this story:

American pancakes are typically thicker than English pancakes.  I love both.

An American style pancakes recipe:

(photo from

An English style pancakes recipe:

(photo from

I love pancakes so much that on my first ever trip to England (in 2010), I took a picture of my first-ever English pancake, and the lovely, skilled vendor cook who made it for me.


10 thoughts on “You say Shrove Tuesday; I say Pancake Day–The 2021 Pandemic edition!

  1. I remember when you posted this earlier… that is so sad that it’s canceled but I understand.
    Ok…tell me what the UK pancakes taste like? Is it comparable to ours or something else? It looks like a crepe…is that what it basically is?


    1. The festivals in both towns clearly take a lot of advance planning, which I’m sure takes place throughout the entire year. It seems to be a labour of love. That makes me sad for the planners, as well as all of the people like me who look forward to the day.

      The UK pancake is something like a crepe, yes. It is light and flexible. They wrap it around a sweet or savory filling.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This involves two things…no three things that I can tell mean a lot to you… the UK, cooking, and running!
        I know it would have to take a lot of planning. I am so hoping that next year we will be in the clear. That does sound really good. I have had crepes before but not like that.

        I sure hope it’s clear by next year…but I’ll believe it when I see it.
        Something you said when this covid started stuck in my mind….I’ll paraphrase….next Christmas we could all have masks on…you were right. When you said it I thought…hopefully by then it will be gone….nope.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, this event is full of things I love, including pancakes! I don’t think about UK pancakes until I see a picture of one, and then I want one right then.

        I was so reluctant to admit that’s what I thought about the duration of the pandemic. But I simply didn’t see a quicker way out of it. As for predictions, I have a feeling 2021 is going to keep feeling like 2020, through the Summer at least. Do you see it ending sooner? I’m already looking forward to 2022, which I think (hope) will be an actual getting back to normal. 😀 Maybe this football season will feel more normal than last year.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. No…the only thing I see slowing it down a little is the vaccine. Not everyone has to be vaccinated…just half the people….that will start cutting it down if it does work like they say it does. I’m certainly not against the vaccine don’t get me wrong…but yea I’m cautiously optimistic.

        I think you are right though. 2022 will be more back to normal but…I think we are changed forever. I think masks will be worn much longer. We all have picked up habits…some good but it wasn’t worth what has happened.

        I hope to have a full season of baseball this year. The World Series was my highlight of last year.


      4. I too think masks and some distancing practices are here to stay by individual choice. It’s not a bad thing. We will be healthier year-round, and hopefully not overly isolated in the process.

        I agree the vaccine will be key, even if a sector of the population refuses it. Our numbers are dropping dramatically right now, but it’s a perfect set up for people to let their guard down as the new super-contagious variant gets a foothold. I fear there is going to be another wave with the new variant, before enough people have gotten the vaccine. I can see the MLB season starting on time and being played with some fans in the stadium though. That will be nice.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes and hand sanitizer will always be around now. We will go grocery shoping and now…and I walk into the Dollar Tree and I will buy one bottle of hand sanitzer…every weekend. I would not have been caught in there before this happened. I have one for my car and at work and just keep them.

        I do like the space we have now in a store. I don’t like the reason but I like it. Some people never respected personal space…now they do. I sound awful saying that…but that is one thing I like.

        Yes it will break out again. It is a good sign though that the numbers are dropping in winter but yes it will make a comeback. Maybe also it’s the vaccine helping also.

        I’m writing a novel here…sorry…but what is so crazy about this is…I could have had it…you could have had it and never knew it….we had a lady at work who had it but never knew it….I am locked alone in my IT department so I don’t come in contact with people….well at work.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I’m doing similar with sanitizer. Also, when I walk into a store, I expect to see a sanitizer dispenser by the door and I use it. Not sure I would have even noticed a dispenser at the entrance before. I too like the expansion of personal space. At concerts and sports events, I’m nervous that it will come at a cost. Fewer people means fewer tickets to sell, and maybe they’ll need to raise prices to balance it out.

        I thought I caught a mild case of it, but later on gave blood, and they do an antibody test, which came up negative. I was really surprised. I don’t know what I had, because it wasn’t a typical cold or flu bug. When I had it, I couldn’t figure out how I might have caught it. I stay pretty isolated, and wear a mask every place I go indoors or near people.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I have to say wearing the mask, hand sanitizer, and distancing…doesn’t bother me…it’s just knowing the anyone could have it and of course the suffering and loss.

        I tried to have the test at that time but couldn’t get in.

        Liked by 1 person

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