DOT’S BEAT: Montpelier’s Guinness Records

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by Dot Helling

I‘ve been thinking about a Montpelier book of “Guinness World Records.” What in this city might qualify for such a list? Here are some of my thoughts.

The longest clothesline in the city is strung behind a house on Cummings Street and measures about 200 feet long. I have never seen clothes hung on it, so I wonder if it has another purpose. There is also perhaps the longest lineup of trash and recycling containers on the Loomis Street side of Union Elementary School.

Did you know the Elm Street outdoor pool is the world’s largest asphalt pool? It was built in the 1930s and is certainly Montpelier’s largest pool. It was created as part of our “Municipal Field” by the Public Works Administration under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who dedicated the field in 1939.

Last year I observed what I believe was the longest in-town lineup of pink flamingos on the front lawn of Washington County Mental Health Services on Heaton Street. They were often relocated, presumably by whomever was mowing the grass. Up the street I observed what I believed was Montpelier’s largest in-town chicken collection running all over College Street. Where have they gone? And where is that hog that used to live behind the house near Upper Main Street? He may have been our only in-town swine. Obviously he got found out.

The longest private river walk belongs to the Neills on Franklin Street. Montpelier boasts numerous towers and “secret” gardens as well as a high percentage of downtown parks and green space. We have four impressive church spires in the downtown, perhaps a record of some sort given the limited extent of our acreage and population. We may have more Christmas wreaths this year per capita on light poles in the downtown. We certainly had record fields of dandelions this summer, as well as bees and spiders, and blazing pink petunias along State Street.

But what qualifies as a record? How about the longest line of musical chairs attempted some time ago on State Street? Didn’t Montpelier host one of the largest flash mobs a few years back at the State and Main intersection? I recall an attempt to create the largest Subway sandwich on State Street. How about that collection of water bottles made into a dragon on the Statehouse lawn? What has been Montpelier’s largest high school class? Might most of our females be named “Mary” because of the church influence? How about the ratio of the number of Asian-influenced restaurants? And the diversity of our community functions, e.g., All Species Day, the Vintage Trailer Show, the Dylan “Wannabe” contest, and the one-and-only, now defunct, Rotten Sneaker Contest? (The first winning pair remains on exhibit at the Recreation Center on Barre Street.) Montpelier also had the largest Vermont KKK gathering on Towne Hill in 1927. And don’t forget our Valentine’s Day Phantom and all those hearts posted around town. None of these, however, are documented records.

Documented records have been set in Central Vermont and actual Guinness World Records have been set around the state, including at Montpelier High School. In 2014, at age 62, Bill Kaplan, Jr., of Brattleboro set a Guinness World Record in Montpelier for two-fingered push-ups. He also set a record for balancing a baseball hat on his finger while walking backwards around the track for a mile in just under 15 minutes. He then set a record for backhanded push-ups, 661 in 15 minutes.

Barre teenager Jeffrey White set a Guinness record in 2012 for the longest chain of staples. The previous record was 422 feet. When it was decided he’d broken the record, his chain was 750 feet and consisted of 20,250 staples and was still growing.

On March 6 through 8, 2009, Barre City set the Guinness record for the world’s largest snow softball tournament during its Freezing Fun for Families Winter Co-Ed Softball Tournament: 795 players participated on 61 teams. The winning team was Shaker Auto after defeating finalist Yipes Stripes.

The Town of Barton holds the Guinness record for the largest Cadillac parade. Two hundred ninety-eight Cadillacs lined up to parade at the Orleans County Fair on Aug. 17, 2011. As for fairs generally, might Vermont have the most county fairs still surviving in a tiny state?

The largest Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sundae was constructed in St. Albans on April 15, 1983. It weighed 27,102 pounds. I recall a failed attempt in Montpelier on a too-warm day. What did occur in Montpelier was Ben & Jerry’s first scoop shop, which offered affordable, yummy seconds that were better than the firsts. For instance, a “second” pint of their Heath Bar Crunch may have failed quality control because of too many chunks, but it was an added bonus for consumers at a bargain price. This was also the first scoop shop to hold a free ice cream day each summer.

The largest grilled cheese sandwich was created by Cabot Creamery on Nov. 4, 2000 during the Second Annual Everglades Cheese Cracker Festival in Florida. After cooking, it measured 5 feet x 10 feet ½ inch x 2½ inches thick and was 11 feet 2¾ inches across diagonally. It weighed 320 pounds. Cabot Creamery also once set a record for the longest and largest cheesesteak sandwich at the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival but lost that record in 2015.

Vermont keeps track of deer records. In 2015 David Durovich, Donald Singleton III and Victor Dwire of Washington County placed ninth, 15th and 16th statewide with kills over 137 pounds. The winner that year bagged a deer that weighed over 149 pounds. The top Washington County hunter on the all-time “200 Pound Buck Club” list is Everett K. Fleury, Sr., of Waterbury, who is 20th on the list with a 250-pound, 14-ounce buck he shot in 2000. The record of 300 pounds 8 ounces was set by a man from Barnet in 1958.

We have lots of weather records for snowfall, rainfall, bone-chilling cold and record highs, such as 68ºF in Montpelier on Christmas Eve 2015. That same winter Montpelier experienced a record breaking minus -19ºF degrees on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2016. We also have foliage records and maple syrup records.

What is it that makes people want to set records? Record setting provides an incentive for the athlete to go faster, the scholar to strive harder and the “funsters” to do something different, or have a reason to stuff themselves with hot dogs or pie. In elementary school we competed for the longest gum wrapper chain. I think mine reached 30 feet. I found it in a box a few years ago and sold it at a yard sale. How’s that for a happy ending? It gave me more satisfaction than any box of running medals because that wrapper chain held memories of lighter, fun times with family and friends, many of whom are no longer here. Records do set memories. I can’t imagine a better purpose.