A warm Saturday afternoon with clear skies and a slight breeze at Marion County Park and Lake provided excellent conditions to set a world record for most people simultaneously roasting marshmallows at a single site, pending verification by Guinness World Records.
The event drew 1,272 participants, exceeding Park and Lake Superintendent Steve Hudson’s goal of 1,000. With no pre-existing record, all that remains is paperwork and documentation, followed by a wait to find out whether Guinness World Records will certify the attempt as a valid world record.
Scot Loyd of accounting firm Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd was on hand to ensure the counting procedures used were reliable. Loyd said he was confident the system in place provided accurate numbers.
Whether the attempt is recognized as a world record, Hudson said he completely accomplished his main goals: to get people to visit and talk about the lake. Most of the people he talked to after the event said they had a good time.
Many people came from outside Marion County to participate in the roast, including Dannette Jackson of Clearwater.
“I came to be part of a world record,” Jackson said. “You don’t get too many chances to do that.”
The out-of-county visitors also included Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
“What a great idea to transform storm destruction into promotion for a rural community,” Schmidt said, referring to the storm that broke branches that eventually became fuel for the marshmallow roast.
“Besides, we wanted to be part of the world record,” Schmidt added. “We’ve never done that before.”
Schmidt was accompanied by his wife, Jennifer, and their daughters, 6-year-old Claire and 8-year-old Caroline.
The event was a financial boon for a pair of local non-profit organizations. A hot dog stand serving participants earned about $500 for Central Station youth center in Marion to help pay utilities.
Circles of Hope, an anti-poverty initiative getting started in the county, sold T-shirts with the slogan, “Marion County Lake, Where Marshmallows Come Home to Roast.” The entire production run sold out. Between sales and donations, Circles of Hope raised $4,000 after costs. The group’s goal for the fundraiser was $2,800.
Marion County Commission Chairman Dan Holub said after the event that many people had asked him how much money the county spent trying to set the world record. Holub said no county tax money went into the event, which was funded entirely by donations.
Despite the size of the crowd and the good weather, the marshmallow roast wasn’t without its problems. After volunteer fire departments started the bonfire, the wind shifted directions blowing smoke and ash into the waiting crowd.
When the time came for people to roast their marshmallows, the fire was still hot and smoky enough that it was difficult for people downwind to approach the fire. But there were too many people present for everyone to roast their marshmallows from the same side of the fire.
Three people at the event received treatment for ailments related to the marshmallow roast, Marion County Emergency Medical Service Director Steve Smith said Monday.
Hudson said he wasn’t going to rush to start planning another gigantic marshmallow roast, but he does want to keep the record in Marion County.
“If someone else breaks the record, then we’ll do it again,” Hudson said. “We definitely don’t want to give up on it.”