'So much in return' Conway woman's mission is to find a need, then fill itREAD ONLINE
No record, but lots of fun at Potluck PartyPublished August 31, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
CLINTON — Wendy Russ said there were “410 smiling faces” at the World Records Largest Potluck Party on Aug. 23, but that wasn’t enough to set the record.
“We wanted to blow the world record out of the water,” she said. “But in lieu of that, we had an amazing outpouring of just joyous community fellowship that was unbelievable.”
Russ is chairwoman of We Love Van Buren County, which sponsored the potluck event in the Clinton High School auditorium and SurvivorFest afterward in City Park.
The idea was to beat the Guinness World Record for a potluck party, which is 1,275. The Van Buren County group’s goal was 1,500 participants.
Part of the purpose was to keep people informed about the downtown revitalization that is underway.
Russ said she thinks two factors came into play in the failed attempt. First, and primarily, was the weather.
“It was very hot. Even though the facility was air-conditioned, people just don’t want to get out when it’s hot,” she said.
Russ said organizers picked that day to hold the potluck in order to attract people from the National Championship Chuckwagon Races in Clinton.
She said that when a volunteer asked people from out of town to stand, “I think it was half.”
Secondly, there were other events going on that day that affected participation, Russ said.
“I think it was just circumstances, not lack of interest,” she said.
Van Buren County Judge Roger Hooper participated in the event.
“It was very well-organized,” he said. “A good time was had by all. I thought it was a very good occasion, even though we didn’t make the [goal]. It was a good event; it was a good community event.”
He said about 200 people initially went to the park for SurvivorFest, but the crowd dwindled.
“They couldn’t survive,” he said, laughing.
Russ said the ultimate survivor challenge, in which contestants had to eat bugs, “was just hysterical.”
The event, “so disgusting,” she said, came down to two young men, and Joseph Cole of Quitman won.
“They’re eating larvae and crickets, and I’m just over there gagging,” she said.
Russ said it’s hard to be disappointed about the event when everything went so well, except for attendance.
“Not a cross word was heard. We heard people say, ‘This was amazingly organized. It’s the best idea I’ve ever heard of; do it again next year,’” she said.
Russ said that before the potluck party, she would have said no to having it again, “because my whole point was to set the world record.”
“But, I had so many people come up and shake my hand and hug me and say, ‘We had such a good time,’ and seeing that food all spread out, and people said, ‘I wish I had two stomachs.’”
Russ said a man came up to a friend of hers and said he lives in a bus with no running water or electricity.
“They brought a dish to share because he wanted to be part of it,” Russ said.
“If that man would go to that amount of effort to bring a dish, that says a lot that there’s just a love for this community that’s intense,” she said.
“It was about being together as a community. We achieved that goal.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.
Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.