Perhaps, in the spirit of the season, somebody should send condolence emails to the people of Waukesha, Wisc., since the city of Portsmouth pushed them out of the Guinness Book of World Records Saturday night.
(Or maybe just an email reading something like “nah, nah, nah!!!!”)
As most readers surely know by now as it has been properly blasted all over Facebook and the Internet, Portsmouth residents, obviously with a big assist from the community group the Friends of Portsmouth, broke the world’s record set in 2013 by Waukesha, which sits on the outskirts of Milwaukee, for the most people Christmas caroling simultaneously.
The old record was 1,822. One of the leaders of the Friends group, local developer Tim Wolfe, stated at one point he wanted to push the record to at least 2,000. The effort didn’t quite reach that goal, but the old record was still broken, with the number to beat now sitting at 1,880, according to the official count of Guinness Book of World Records judge Kellie Parise.
This was of course the second world record set in Portsmouth this year. In August, during the Friends Plant Portsmouth event participants shattered the record for the most persons simultaneously potting plants. The new record sits at 1,405 almost tripling the previous mark of 500.
For a time on Saturday, it appeared perhaps the rain which fell pretty much constantly throughout the night had chased off enough people to keep the well-publicized caroling record attempt from reaching its goal.
Local ophthalmologist Mike Raies, who also leads the local cover band Blonde Habits, served as emcee for the caroling event. The initial time for the record attempt was 7 p.m. Prior to the appointed hour, Raies several times asked the crowd to get on their cell phones and call for reinforcements as the numbers just weren’t there. Ultimately, Raies said organizers had been given permission to push back the start time and the singing actually got underway about 7:20 p.m.
“The record doesn’t say anything about singing in tune, just make sure you sing,” Raies said at one point. He repeatedly tried to remind the crowd not to leave when the singing was over but to wait until the official count was completed. Nevertheless, Guinness judge Parise said she had to discount some participants because they left early.
Portsmouth Acting Mayor Kevin Johnson was among the many in the crowd Saturday night. He had nothing but praise for the Friends of Portsmouth and the Winterfest event they launched early this month. Johnson said Winterfest was proving to be a wonderful family festival.
“We’ve been on the ‘glice,’ taken a carriage ride and just generally had a good time,” Johnson added, further noting Winterfest obviously was a wonderful thing for the city.
By “glice” Johnson was referring to the space-age plastic that makes up the surface of the temporary skating rink set up for Winterfest.
“I’m very excited about Winterfest,” said Lanita Warner, one of the many residents in the crowd Saturday evening. She described the event as a wonderful thing for downtown Portsmouth.
As persons arrived for the record breaking attempt, whether or not they had previously obtained tickets for the free event, participants were handed color-coded cards with song lyrics printed on them. Carolers sang five different songs at 10 doors on Second and Market streets.
The songs included “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls” and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.” Rules required carolers move from door to door, with someone actually knocking on a door and someone inside actually opening that door. At the end of each stop, carolers sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Doors included businesses along both Market and Second streets. Raies and choir director Linda Tieman from Portsmouth West High School hurried carolers from stop to stop, as rules required the record be broken within 50 minutes of the start time.
Sometime after 8 p.m., with the rain falling harder than ever, Wolfe and Parise announced over a loudspeaker the record had officially been broken. Facebook and social media are replete with descriptions of downtown Portsmouth and Boneyfiddle looking like something out of a Hallmark Channel movie thanks to Winterfest. With that in mind, it seemed appropriate when Wolfe also announced Winterfest will be back for a second year in 2019 with a brand-new sponsor, namely the Hallmark Channel.
The rain soaked evening was capped off by entertainment provided by local music sensation Jacob Tolliver playing some of his favorite tunes under a canopy set up on a truck bed. Tolliver, a former American Idol contestant and member of the Million Dollar Quartet, was also part of the world record breaking caroling crowd.