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Marine City: One for the record book

A warm, sunny day brought larger than expected turnout, with more than 100 same-day registrations for the pumpkin carving. PHOTO/COLLEEN KOWALEWSKI

A warm, sunny day brought larger than expected turnout, with more than 100 same-day registrations for the pumpkin carving. PHOTO/COLLEEN KOWALEWSKI

BY COLLEEN KOWALEWSKI
OU News Bureau

Largest sushi mosaic. Biggest gathering of Elvis impersonators. Longest Minecraft marathon.

These are just some of the records that fill the pages of the Guinness World Records book. Originally created 60 years ago to settle barroom arguments, the Guinness book has grown into a household name. Record-holders come from around the globe, holding claim to the biggest, longest, fastest or best in categories that span from the remarkable to the ridiculous.

Getting into the record book is no easy feat. Guinness receives more than 50,000 record applications each year, and has developed a detailed process to evaluate and confirm each record attempt. Success requires more than just commitment to breaking the record. It also depends on careful planning and documentation to meet Guinness’ exacting standards.

Getting started

Marine City, a small town on the St. Clair River, attempted to break two world records in a single October weekend of fall-themed fun. The first attempt, for most simultaneously carved pumpkins, took just five minutes. The second, for longest popcorn string, took 24 hours.

Gary Kohs

Gary Kohs

But planning the attempt took over a year. Mariner Theatre owner Gary Kohs, who organized the Marine City record attempts, began working on the event in October 2015.

Choosing what record to break is the first step.

“We were only going to do one. I wanted it to be a local, homegrown, hometown record. So I chose pumpkins.” Kohs said. The corn-stringing record was later added to make the event a weekend-long fall festival.

Both record attempts were carefully chosen to embrace the city’s rural atmosphere. Kohs partnered with Vandenbossche Farms, a third-generation family farm in the community, to grow the pumpkins and corn. The newest addition to Marine City’s business community, Popcorn Paradise, popped the corn to get it ready to string.

With the goal in mind, Kohs reached out to Guinness to begin the process of submitting an official record attempt. Aspiring record-setters must register on the Guinness website and complete an application detailing the attempt, which is then reviewed by the records management team. Only when approval is granted can organizers view the rules for the record and start hammering out details.

The rules required at least five minutes of simultaneous pumpkin carving, during which 738 people sat on the grass and worked on their pumpkins as a drone flew overhead, documenting the record attempt. PHOTO/COLLEEN KOWALEWSKI

The rules required at least five minutes of simultaneous pumpkin carving, during which 738 people sat on the grass and worked on their pumpkins as a drone flew overhead, documenting the record attempt. PHOTO/COLLEEN KOWALEWSKI

And for many record attempts, the devil is in the details. Every pumpkin to be carved had to weigh at least 24.25 pounds. To set a record for the longest popcorn string, even the definition of string had to be clarified.

“They said you can use string or line.” Kohs said. “I don’t want to use string. It will break up the popcorn. I don’t want to use line. It will break up the popcorn. I want to use monofilament line. And so you go to them and say we want to use monofilament line.”

With all of the details clarified and approved, volunteers turned their attention to the logistics of each attempt and publicizing the event, which incorporated a costume contests, trick-or-treating, and other fall-themed fun sponsored by local businesses in addition to the pumpkin carving and popcorn stringing.

Proving success

Documenting the record-setting activity to the satisfaction of Guinness officials is an essential part of any attempt. While the organization will send out an official to verify the attempt in real-time, that service comes with a price tag that many sponsoring organizations are unable to pay.

“For $10,000, they’ll come and do it for you.” Kohs said.

Erin Wilson, 8, carves her contribution to the record attempt. Face painting, a costume contest, and trick-or-treating at local businesses made the event popular with local families. PHOTO/COLLEEN KOWALEWSKI

Erin Wilson, 8, carves her contribution to the record attempt. Face painting, a costume contest, and trick-or-treating at local businesses made the event popular with local families. PHOTO/COLLEEN KOWALEWSKI

Organizations not wanting to shell out for a visit from a Guinness official have to document the attempt themselves. On the Guinness website, organizers of record attempts can find advice on collecting and submitting evidence in the 29-page “Guide to Your Evidence.” Templates for required documentation, including witness statements, and an evidence checklist are available to help record-setters navigate the final verification process.

Standard documentation requirements include testimony from two uninvolved witnesses, as well as a statement from a surveyor in support of distance records like the longest popcorn string. Specific requirements are outlined in the rules laid out when the attempt is approved and reviewing the evidence for final approval can take up to eight weeks.

Kohs engaged a local videographer to film both record-breaking efforts, as well as a second surveyor and a team of 40 volunteers to check and double check to ensure there were no gaps in the popcorn string.

“We are going to go so overboard on documentation that they can’t question it.”

Setting records, building community

Ultimately, Marine City set only one record.

Participation in the pumpkin carving fell short of the 1,200 needed to break the record. But despite wet weather that drove popcorn-stringing teams into the Mariner to keep the popcorn from getting soggy, the string was a success.

“We had so many people who wanted to string that we had almost twice the popcorn we needed.” Marine City Mayor Ray Skotarczyk said. “We could have stopped any time, but they wanted to string popcorn so we let them.”

Just after 6 p.m., Kohs boarded a small boat to carry the string across the St. Clair River to the mayor of Sombra, Ontario, linking the neighboring communities in a moment of celebration that took approval from the Coast Guard and border security agencies in both countries. Even with the string stretched across the river, nearly half its length remained on shore.

Kohs and his team of volunteers haven’t given up on that pumpkin carving record, though. They’ve already set a date for next year’s attempt and plan to build an annual fall tradition around Guinness Record attempts.

“Every year we’re sponsoring a Guinness Record here. One, not two.” Kohs said, with a laugh. “Unless there’s a good one. Then maybe we’ll do two again.”

 

 

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Posted by on Nov 20 2016. Filed under Featured article. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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