When a community has weathered a lot of literal and figurative storms, sometimes it helps to look on the bright side and join together for a celebration. And if that celebration involves bread pudding and pie, all the better.
In an effort to revitalize downtown Clinton, residents are planning what they hope will be a record-breaking party with a unique twist.
"[Van Buren County] is one of the counties in Arkansas that has had the most natural disasters," explains organizer Jackie Sikes, pointing to tornadoes and floods, as well as wrecks on U.S. 65. "That's not probably one of our best assets, but if we turn it around and put a positive spin on it and show how supportive the community is and how resilient it is, it's a better deal."
Hence Saturday's Guinness World Record Potluck Party and SurvivorFest, a celebration of the community's ability to band together and support each other, whether it's someone's home being flattened by a tornado or a local business in trouble.
"We have a resiliency, the ability to pull together as a community when we need each other," Sikes says. "We wanted to celebrate it.
"What better way than to have everybody sit down to a meal?"
And not just any meal. The potluck to end all potlucks. They're out to break the Guinness World Record for Largest Potluck Party. When they first started the process, the largest was 825 dishes, but that record has since been broken.
"Now we need to hit at least 1,500," Sikes says. "That's our goal. We don't want anybody to take the record from us anytime soon."
It's a very technical process that requires a lot of documentation. Every dish must be large enough to feed at least six people. Once inside, no one is allowed to leave (if they do leave, they must be documented and removed from the count) and everyone has to eat. That last one should be easy.
"Now, I don't know anybody that's gone to a potluck and not eaten!" Sikes says with a laugh.
On the day of the potluck, there will be two doors open at the Clinton High School gymnasium. Those bringing a dish will have their dish approved and will receive a numbered armband. Volunteers will take the dish to the tables and then the guests will go to the auditorium to wait and listen to some musical entertainment.
All entrances, exits and dishes will be videotaped and photographed.
They hope to have everyone inside and counted by noon, when they'll announce whether or not the record has been broken, though even if it's not a technical success, it should still be a fun time.
Sikes says, "Either way, it's going to be the biggest potluck party I've ever been to."
Then, it's time for everybody to go back to the gym for a prayer of thanks and lots and lots of eating -- and more photo documentation.
It's not just a party for Van Buren County residents either. Everyone is welcome. With various groups in town setting up for the Chuckwagon Races the following weekend, there will be plenty of out-of-towners pitching in.
"They can do something simple like buy a cake ...," Sikes says. "It's easy for anybody to come."
The only ones who can't be counted are the organizers, including Sikes, and officials participating in the documentation. But they can still get their specialties in there. Sikes plans to hand her famous cheesecake to her husband to enter.
"Our county judge's wife has a bread pudding with praline sauce that she is known for," she says. "I've told him, he's one of our officials, 'Listen, you can't be counted, but your wife can and I expect her specialty to be there!'"
People are welcome to attend without a dish, but only those bearing food will be counted in the total. They're also the only ones who get to fully participate in the other part of the day's celebration: SurvivorFest.
SurvivorFest starts when the potluck ends, with games, relays and vendor booths all connected to natural disasters and survival: a relay with sandbagging, endurance games, a bug-eating table.
To participate in the games, though, guests must have an armband from the potluck.
"If we do get 1,500 people, not everybody will get to participate, but we want the spectators because it should be quite an event to watch!"
Ultimately, the point is to gather the whole community (and then some) and to enjoy a lot of fabulous food.
"What better way to celebrate our survival? It's a great way to be together."
Weekend on 08/21/2014
Print Headline: Make casserole, eat lunch, set a Guinness record