ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times
Thanksgiving is gone, and preparations for Christmas and New Year’s Day are certainly taking place across the nation.
With all that in mind, few thoughts have likely turned to the next upcoming edition of Liberal’s annual celebration with Olney, England, but Pancake Day officials are already building excitement for what is a landmark anniversary for the event.
That is because there is extra excitement for this year and not just because of the 75th edition of the international race.
“International Pancake Day is thrilled to announce we are able to attempt the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest line of pancakes,” coordinator Kara Howery said.
The record was first set in 2018 in Australia, and that record was broken with a line of pancakes 429 feet long in 2020 in London. Howery said the record locals are aiming for will more than double that if accomplished.
“It’ll be somewhere between 950 and 1,000 feet long,” she said.
Howery said Pancake Day leaders are going to need help if the record is to be set in Liberal.
“I know we’re going to need help setting up the tables,” she said. “I’m not sure how many tables it’s going to take, but the overall length will be about 108 feet of tables. The letters themselves will be about six and a half feet tall. The pancakes will go all around the words, ‘75th International Pancake Day.’”
Guinness, Howery said, has strict rules when it comes to breaking and certifying records, and with the upcoming attempt, there can only be certain people who can position the pancakes, which will spread out to spell the words “75th International Pancake Day.”
“It’s more than 30 pages of rules describing what we need to do and the certificates we need to have signed,” she said. “There has to be an official who literally watches us and makes sure we’re doing things right, and there has to be an official surveyor person who comes and actually does the official measurement of the line of pancakes.”
Pancakes used in the record breaking attempt can be no longer than five inches across and no thicker than one centimeter.
“Honestly, they can’t be like American pancakes,” Howery said. “In America, we like them big and thick and fluffy, but if you go to England or Australia, they’re more like crepes. They’re very thin. We have to change how we do that.”
Liberal’s IHOP will provide all of the pancakes.
“That is an incredible donation from them, and we’re really proud to partner with them.” Howery said.
The Pancake Day coordinator said in addition to the pancakes’ dimensions, all of the flapjacks used have to be touching each other.
“It has to be consecutive all the way down the line,” she said. “It’s quite amazing. There’s official witnesses. They have to sign when they do the actual measurement. There has to be a videographer who literally tapes the entire measurement. There cannot be a break. If there is a break, the video overlaps so there’s no possibility of cheating involved.”
With all of these rules in mind, Howery said people with some specialized skills will be needed to do certain things.
“Since it takes more than 2,000 pancakes to do this, we hope they’re going to allow us to make them ahead of time, stick them in the fridge, keep them ready to go, and bring them to the Seward County Activity Center and be able to make a few on the spot where we can have the photo op with everyone there with their aprons on,” she said.
Though the time has not yet been determined, Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, the day before Pancake Day, visitors will be encouraged to stop by, take pictures and cheer on the team as they attempt to set the Guinness record for the longest line of pancakes.
“There will be a certain time of day,” Howery said. “We don’t know exactly when we will allow visitors to come in and watch us putting the pancakes down and being able to see the whole process come together. The official measurement will be announced at the grand marshal’s reception that night. This will be happening on Monday, Feb. 12, and we will that in the evening between 6 and 8 p.m. at Baker Arts.”
Howery said the idea to try to break the record was the brainchild of Pancake Day board member Frank Hampton.
“It’s all his fault,” she said jokingly. “He is the Energizer bunny, and he is so full of energy and ideas. He literally has been thinking about this and planning and trying to figure out how we can make it happen since the 73rd. He’s been thinking about this for two years and how we could make it happen.”
Howery said she looks at the record breaking attempt as a revitalization of Pancake Day.
“This is going to be something that’s exciting that will bring people into town,” she said. “Hopefully, they can come and see it that Monday. It’s going to be exciting. How many towns can say they’ve tried for a world record, turn in all the paperwork and do all the stuff it takes to get it officially made into the Guinness Book of World Records?”
Liberal’s Pancake Day celebration typically takes place during four days, Saturday through Tuesday, with most of the fun taking place Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. Traditionally, Monday’s lone activity has been the grand marshal’s reception, and Howery said the attempt to break the record will add more fun to the eve of Pancake Day.
“It is challenging because people work during the day on Monday, and a lot of people still work on Tuesday,” she said. “They miss out on a lot of the Pancake Day activities. We are working on adding some activities on Saturday, and we are actually going to have an afternoon tea on Sunday.”
Of course, this year’s Pancake Day event will feature a flurry of favorite events as well, including the breakfast, parade and obviously the international race between Liberal and Olney, along with other events.
“We always have the eating and flipping of course,” Howery said. “We’re adding a one-mile walk and roll fun run for Saturday morning. We’re going to have a demonstration by Rine’s Karate at the Recreation Center.”
Howery said the Activity Center was what Pancake Day leaders felt was the ideal location to lay out the flapjacks used to try to break the record.
“It’s the only place we know of in town that was long enough and high enough to be able to get a photograph of a 108-foot table,” she said.
Of course with food being used to break a record, one question arises of what will be done with the pancakes once the attempt is over. Howery said Guinness has rules concerning this aspect as well.
“A food inspector has to be there to observe and make sure all the rules are followed for these to still be edible by human consumption,” she said. “When this is all said and done, they will be donated to local charities in town that will distribute them to food banks, to families in need, Stepping Stone Shelter, the Rape Crisis Center. There has to be one entity that signs off on it.”
Pancake Day officials will likewise donate portions of the 2,000 flapjacks to local food cupboards at Puerta del Cielo, South Church of God, First Southern Baptist Church, the Community Baptist Church and the Liberal Area Coalition for Families, all of whom will distribute the pancakes to local people in need.
All of this, Howery said, is part of Guinness’ conscientious effort to make sure no food is wasted.
“We do all these records, and everybody’s excited, but if it all goes to waste, that’s not okay,” she said.
Howery said the goal of this Pancake Day event is to bring hunger awareness to food insecurity in the community.
“The USDA defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active and healthy life,” she said.
Howery said she could not be more excited to begin the effort to try to break the record for the longest line of pancakes.
“I’m at a 10,” she said. “I’m very nervous about all the details. I’m such a detail-oriented person, and if any single detail is not met, I panic a little bit. I want everything to be great. I want everything to be amazing. I want everything to represent Pancake Day well.”
Howery said she is confident local people can break the record.
“I’m sure we can make it happen,” she said. “If anything goes wrong, it’s going to be a technicality. We have the excitement. We have the people. We have all the things going on. We are all super excited. We’ve just got to get the details down. We’ve got to get the little pieces and parts and make sure we are transporting the food okay and getting it to the places it needs to be and making sure it’s all sanitary.”