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Wednesday, October 01, 2014, 1:38 p.m.
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SurvivorFest, attempt at potluck record on tap at Clinton

By Tammy Keith

This article was published August 14, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

CLINTON — We Love Van Buren County committee members want people to pull out their favorite potluck recipes to help the organization beat the Guinness world record.

Yes, there is a world record for potlucks — it’s 1,275 people, and Clinton is aiming for 1,500 people.

“It’s open to everybody,” said Wendy Russ, chairwoman of We Love VBC. “It’s not just a local event; it’s a statewide event.”

Intake for the Guinness World Records Largest Potluck Party will begin at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 23 at the Clinton High School auditorium.

After people get their fill of casseroles and cake, they can head to City Park for the first SurvivorFest, which is expected to begin about 2 p.m.

“This kind of came from a combination of things,” Russ said. “The SurvivorFest came out of a meeting that we had. We’re doing periodic meetings to keep people pumped up and informed about our downtown revitalization.”

One piece of information Russ said she learned was “unique, although unfortunate. I was told our county has the No. 1 disaster designations [in the state] over a certain period of time.

“We were asking everybody to kind of brainstorm, ‘What do you love about our county?’ One thing that always comes up is that no matter how many disasters we have, we always come together as a community. We can have different opinions, but when it really matters, we all come together as a family. That’s what everybody loves about the place.”

SurvivorFest is designed “to celebrate not only this feeling of coming together as a family, but to memorialize people who have experienced a loss from these disasters,” Russ said. A moment of silence will be held for those who have died.

Linda Sikes, chairwoman of the Aug. 23 event, agreed.

“On the positive note, our fire department and rescue teams, they’re always spot on. They know how to respond to natural disasters or accidents,” Sikes said.

“Within 24 hours, they’re turning away volunteers,” she said. “We have a resiliency; we have a love of community. We really do.

“If you’re going to be in a natural disaster, this is the best place to be. We got to thinking, we’re going to turn a negative into a positive. What better way than to sit down for a meal?”

Sikes said Russ came up with the Guinness World Records idea.

“You would not believe the response that we’ve been receiving,” Sikes said. “People from out of state are planning to come.”

The Guinness record attempt is a major undertaking with specific guidelines, Russ said.

When the We Love VBC Committee started planning the event in the spring, the potluck record was 975. It has since been broken by a church in Chandler, Arizona, Russ said.

Russ said she had to register with Guinness World Records, write an essay and fill out paperwork to be approved for the record attempt.

“We can’t have it downtown because it has to be a completely controlled environment,” Russ said.

Russ said she had to provide Guinness with a site plan of the Clinton High School auditorium.

“They are religious about the exits,” she said.

Each person counted toward the potluck record must bring a dish that can feed six people.

“One person with one dish that feeds six people” is the requirement, Russ said.

“If somebody brings six muffins, that counts as one dish,” Russ said.

She said that Guinness has a requirement that participants must not leave the building until the final count has been confirmed and all participants have eaten.

Volunteers with “clickers” will be stationed at the entrance to count people, and armbands with serial numbers will be given out, too.

“We have to have a continuous running videotape from two cameras where there’s no cut, showing people coming in and out,” Russ said.

“Then we have to have a third camera that roams to show people eating and milling about, whatever,” she said.

A band that performs blues and rock ’n’ roll will be playing in the auditorium for entertainment.

“We don’t want people to leave, or we have to subtract them,” Russ said.

“At noon, we’ll all go into the gymnasium part; they’ll get their plates and sit in the bleachers. We have to get a photo from above, somehow, and get everybody in the picture,” she said. Russ said she has a photographer arranged, as well as a videographer who will make a still photo from the video.

Sikes said the response to the event has been great.

“You would not believe the response that we’ve been receiving,” Sikes said. “People from out of state are planning to come.”

Van Buren County Judge Roger Hooper has been “a wonderful support,” she said.

Russ said state Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, told her he has “cleared his schedule” to attend and will bring others from the state Capitol.

She said Sanders, Hooper and others will serve as nonparticipatory members of the event and will fill out documentation to send to Guinness.

“We will know immediately if we beat it then, but it will probably take six or eight weeks to get the official OK,” Russ said.

The armbands will provide free entry to SurvivorFest.

The festival will include “survivor-related games,” including a bug-eating contest.

“Apparently, you can purchase what’s called ‘clean’ bugs that are safe to eat,” Russ said. “There will be a Bug Out Café with bugs and worms and other yucky things to eat.”

Sikes said that portion of the festival is under the direction of Jeana Williams, coordinator of Van Buren County Emergency Management.

“She came up with some crazy things,” Sikes said, laughing.

Sikes said other events will include a “huge” obstacle course set up by the Clinton Fire Department.

“They’ll let the children 13 and under participate, then 13 and above, and there will be prizes,” Sikes said.

In addition to more games and contests, the festival will have demonstration booths related to survival, emergency preparedness and self-sustainability.

For more information on SurvivorFest or the Guinness World Records Largest Potluck Party, contact event organizers at (501) 253-4716 or (501) 253-0019.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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