Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 13 March 2012 15:03
In 10 days, Marion County will attempt to set a world record for the most people roasting marshmallows simultaneously at a single venue.
If successful, participants will join an elite group of record-holders in the Guinness Book of World Records.
“We initially were shooting for 1,000 people, but now are estimating closer to 1,700,” said Steve Hudson, superintendent of Marion County Park and Lake, where the record attempt will occur.
The idea, Hudson said, emerged after last year’s late-June windstorm that resulted in a lot of downed tree branches and other debris.
“After the storm, we just stacked everything into a burn pile,” he said. “I had people asking me when we were going to burn (the pile),”
Hudson said he first considered organizing a large hot dog or marshmallow roast.
He and his assistant, Brian Thiessen, discovered the new marshmallow roasting category in the Guinness Book information online.
How will it work?
Hudson said he will need at least 52 people to volunteer as supervisors, notary publics and marshmallow specialists. The notary publics will serve as witnesses, notarizing affidavits filled out by the supervisors.
The gates will open at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 24, he said, The first 50 people to arrive will go with a supervisor to an assigned staging area.
The process will continue with one supervisor for every 50 people arriving until 5:30 p.m., when everyone must be at a specific staging area and ready to roast a marshmallow.
Depending on the fire and wind conditions, Hudson is estimating a 5:30 p.m. start time.
“We encourage people to begin showing up at 3:30 p.m. and bring water, chairs, coolers and extra marshmallows,” Hudson said.
Each staging area is 24 feet by 32 feet or about a 4-foot square for people to relax and sit along the southeast side of the lake.
Those arriving the earliest will be the first to leave based on the organization of the staging areas.
Things to remember
Hudson stressed the importance of following the rules to the letter.
“If more than 5 percent of the total number of people participating are disqualified,” he said, “it’s over.”
One major disqualification involves the marshmallow roasting itself.
“People can’t just throw the marshmallow into the fire and then try to dig it back out,” he said. “Everybody must put their marshmallow into the flame at the exact same time.”
A whistle, horn or siren will be used to signal everyone to begin and the marshmallow must roast for at least 10 seconds.
Another way to be disqualified is not getting the marshmallow browned.
“We are asking people to brown the marshmallow, not black it, and all marshmallows need to be checked and seen by a marshmallow specialist,” he said.
Every marshmallow must be on a roasting stick; participants can bring their own. The roasting stick can be a willow stick, 9-gauge wire or a clothes hanger.
Hudson said some sticks will be available for those who don’t bring one. Rocky Hett of Marion is providing roasting willow sticks that are 4 to 8 feet long.
“We are whittling away in preparation for the event,” Hudson said.
The supervisors will review the rules with participants and instructional sheets will be available.
“Because this is a new event, we need to make sure to cross our t’s and dot our i’s,” Hudson said.
All are welcomed
Hudson said the event is open to everyone who wants to participate.
“We have people in Texas, Missouri, Iowa and Colorado coming,” he said.
Hudson has also heard from people in Herington, Walton and Harvey County.
“If there are any vendors who would like to be involved, they can set up outside the participating area,” Hudson said. “These vendors can sell popcorn, pizza, or other foods, but the big thing is they have to deliver food to people inside the (marshmallow roasting) area.”
Anyone age 12 and under will be asked to have adult supervision in the roasting area.
“No one will be allowed in this area except those doing the roasting,” he added.
Fire pit ready
The fire pit is done, and Hudson said volunteers are working on staging areas and fencing.
“We are going to use the orange snow fencing (for crowd control),” he said.
Parking will be available on either side of the event area. Parking also will be allowed next to the dam in the spill area, and when that fills up, the heated dock area.
“Parking attendants with orange vests will be directing cars,” he said.
In addition, two school buses will be shuttling people to the roast site. Most of the parking will be near the black top road to Marion County Lake, he said.
It takes a village
Hudson said the event is taking a lot of planning and many volunteers.
“Our local firefighters have burned off the prairie grass to the north on the backside of the lake,” he said.
The city of Marion brought in construction equipment for moving the 18-foot tall, 150-foot long pile of debris and limbs.
“We will line up the limbs, making it about 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide. It will go at least an eighth of a mile,” he said.
The reason for the length is because if it is extremely windy everyone can crowd around on one side rather than both sides, Hudson said.
“All safety precautions will be taken,” he said.
Western Associates of Marion is providing orange and green camel hats (for volunteers) and the city of Hillsboro and its fire department supplied the fencing.
Carlsons’ Grocery is providing the bags of marshmallows either as a donation or at reduced price.
Hudson said the event is getting a lot of media attention.
Bucket trucks will be on site for videotaping. Marion County Commissioner Dan Holub is hoping to have either the secretary of state or the governor in attendance.
Linda Ogden and Jackie Volbrecht, representing Circles of Hope, a newly formed group to fight poverty in Marion County, are selling T-shirts to support that cause.
Hudson said he encourages people to do these types of fundraisers, but they will be on their own.
“We have too much on our plate as it is with the roast,” he said.
“I am excited,” Hudson said. “Rain or shine, it’s going to happen March 24, so bring an umbrella just in case.”
If the record is achieved, Hudson is confident the county will be known as, “The Place Where Marshmallows Come Home to Roast.”
For more information about the event, call Hudson or Thiessen at 620-382-3240.