In 2008, a St. Paul's United Methodist Church adult Sunday School class discussion about Easter and Lent traditions cooked up an intriguing Cherokee event that for the last two years promised and delivered both immense fun and celebration in conjunction with the Lenten Season.
The success and sizzle of that first event in 2009 so capably performed and embraced by the entire Cherokee community, naturally led to the second annual event in 2010 again set for "Fat Tuesday" the day before Ash Wednesday.
According to one of the event organizers, John Cook, in England many years ago the tradition was established for housewives to use the food ingredients that they would otherwise stop using during Lent on "Shrove Tuesday" and to use those ingredients to make pancakes. The custom evolved into a Shrove Tuesday race which is still conducted in Olney, England to this day.
The race includes women who wear a dress, an apron, and a head scarf, all carrying a pan with a pancake. At the start of the race, all runners must flip their pancake, then run the 415-yard course, winding through town and ending at the church where they must again flip their pancake to finish.
The racers then enter the church, place their pans in front of the sanctuary, and a brief "Shriving Service" is conducted with recognition given to the runners at this time.
The event is coordinated by St. Paul's, but community-wide participation is again encouraged and actively being sought. Most of the local clergy already have committed to a variety of "official" duties for the race ( starter, course judge, finish line judge, flip judge) and will be easily spotted with their towering chef's hats.
Race participants are limited to women age 18 or older. The race is open to the public. Recognition will be given to those who finish the race first, and also for a number of categories not directly related to speed or athletic ability. Pans and pancakes will be provided. Age, gender, and running garb rules will be strictly enforced. It's tradition.
Teams are encouraged and crutches and wheelchairs are welcomed as usual. Outstanding dress and athletic performances will be recognized.
"This is planned as a fun event where all who compete can participate in a memorable experience," noted Cook. "Due to the outstanding success of our first Race, we are excited to bring this to the public again. It's a joyful experience for all involved."
The race also has a historic side, explained Cook, as the area of the race is within the designated Historic District of Cherokee. Two centuries ago, Cherokee's Courthouse Hill was known as "Piety Hill" as it had five churches on and around it. The race passes the sites and former sites of the churches on Piety Hill - the old Congregational Church (where Post Office is now), the Presbyterian Church (near the corner of South 5th and Main Streets), the Catholic Church (part way up the hill on the south side of Main Street), and the Methodist and Lutheran Churches (Methodist at N. 6th and Main, Lutheran just south of it).
The Cherokee City Council has approved closing portions of Pine Street, West Willow Street, North Fifth Street, and West Main Street for "The Great Pancake Day Race of Cherokee" 2011.
The race, which must cover 415 yards (little over quarter of a mile) is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. March 8 beginning in the City Hall parking lot.
When weather and course conditions make it appropriate, and at the absolute discretion of the Supervising Vicar of the Race, contestants may be prohibited from breaking stride and the Race conducted as a walk.
All contestants shall attend the Shriving Service that immediately follows the Race, where awards will be presented and the pans returned. Individual and team photos will be taken in the church lounge adjacent to the dining room after the Shriving Service.
Registration deadline is Friday, March 4. The Race is limited to the first 100 pans assigned. In the inaugural Race, 85 contestants participated in the hilarity and gaiety.
St. Paul's Methodist Church has modified its serving plans for the post-race pancake feed and will be able to much better accommodate the large number expected for the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner.
For questions, or more information, call St. Paul's at 225-3955, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The official Pancake Day website is www.pancakerace.com.