Unlike Weed being located in California, Liberal is probably not where you’d think.
Liberal is located in Seward County in Southwest Kansas with a population just over 20,000.
Kansas has a history of coming up with big ideas such as, well, Pizza Hut. However, politically it has long been considered solidly red.
That being said there is another definition of liberal and that applies to what many would consider midwestern politeness and that is how Liberal got its name.
Early settler S. S. Rogers built the first house in what would become Liberal in 1872. Rogers became famous in the region for giving water to weary travelers. Reportedly, Liberal gained its name from the common response to his acts of kindness, “That’s very liberal of you.” In 1885 Rogers built a general store, and with it came an official U.S. Post Office. Rogers named the post office ‘Liberal’.
Meanwhile, Clark W. Griswold was a tad liberal with the town’s claim to fame.
In the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation, Clark W. Griswold mentions departing the route of travel to Liberal to see the world’s largest house of mud. The idea is rejected by his wife, Ellen, in favor of getting to her cousin Eddie’s home.
It is likely not a boasting point for the local Chamber of Commerce to be turned down in favor of Uncle Eddie.
If you are in Kansas anymore, you might not be able to see mud houses, but you can stop by a recreation of Dorothy’s House from the Wizard of Oz at the Land of Oz.
For a town of modest size, Liberal actually has a lot of activities. Adventure Bay is a water park in town. The fifth largest collection of aircraft in the US is located at the Mid-America Air Museum. Native American artifacts are also located at the Coronado Museum.
This unassuming town in a landlocked state also holds an annual Pancake Day race against the town of Olney, England.
Since 1445, a pancake race has been run in the town on many Pancake Days. Tradition records that back in 1445, on Shrove Tuesday the “Shriving Bell” rang out to signal the start of the Shriving church service. On hearing the bell a local housewife, who had been busy cooking pancakes in anticipation of the beginning of Lent, ran to the church, frying pan still in hand, still in her apron and headscarf.
The women of Olney recreate this race every Shrove Tuesday (known in some countries as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday) by running from the market place to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, a distance of about 380 metres. The traditional prize is a kiss from the verger. In modern times, Olney competes with the town of Liberal, Kansas in the United States for the fastest time in either town and winner of the “International Pancake Race”.
And because we are all here to learn: