With 24 days left until an attempt to set a world record for the most people roasting marshmallows, Marion County Park and Lake Superintendent Steve Hudson has his hands full getting ready for the attempt.
The grass in the area where the marshmallow roast will take place has already been burned off, to lower the risk of the bonfire spreading. The area on the southeast side of the lake has been marked with posts and flags, all in preparation for cordoning off the area as required by Guinness World Records.
The bonfire itself will be approximately 660 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 3 feet tall — longer than two football fields — Hudson said Feb. 22. If the crowd meets Hudson’s goal of 1,000 people, that leaves about 16 inches of space per person around the fire, but he said he anticipates even more participants than that, possibly as many as 1,700. He has heard from people as far away as Iowa and Texas interested in the attempt.
The challenge with such a large crowd is making sure every participant counts toward the record. One supervisor — or “steward” in Guinness World Records parlance — will be required for every 50 participants to make sure everyone is participating. There will be a meeting for supervisors at 7:30 p.m. March 8 at Marion County Lake Hall.
The attempt to set the world record will also require the presence of several legal notaries as neutral witnesses to attest to the record’s authenticity. Witnesses and stewards have to fill out multiple pages attesting to what they witnessed. Hudson said they are essentially affidavits.
Participants will be meticulously counted as they enter the cordoned-off area, and once they enter, they can’t leave without being deducted from the record.
But it won’t simply be a world record attempt March 24. Hudson is working to make it into an event. He is arranging for groups to have fundraising stalls outside the area for the record attempt. The biggest requirement for vendors is that they must serve the people in the restricted area, because the participants can’t leave until the record is complete.
Because there won’t be parking available at the site of the attempt, buses will shuttle people to the site from several parking lots around the lake.
Hudson has deals in place to buy the marshmallows for the attempt below retail price, and it is still possible to receive a full sponsorship from a marshmallow company. Additionally, the lake received a $400 donation from Marion Mothers of Preschoolers after the group’s 2011 Fun Run, which has offset costs involved with preparing the area for the record attempt.
Even if all of the other hurdles are cleared, there is one obstacle to the attempt that is out of Hudson’s hands. If there is too much wind, the attempt may be limited to one side of the bonfire, and it could even conceivably require the attempt be canceled. Because of the wind risk, the attempt is scheduled for the evening, when breezes usually calm down, Hudson said.
Powerful winds started the chain of events leading to the world record attempt. In June 2011, a powerful thunderstorm with strong, gusting winds struck Marion and the lake, breaking many tree limbs. The county offered for lake residents to dispose of broken tree limbs in a pile on the southeast side of the lake, which grew to huge proportions.
While considering how to dispose of the pile, an idea for a big marshmallow roast took shape. Checking with Guinness World Records revealed the group had no recognized record for largest marshmallow roast. Armed with this knowledge, Hudson decided to take the lemons the storm had handed him and make lemonade.