Basalt puts its best foot forward to set Guinness World Record

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times


As an adjudicator for Guinness World Record, Michael Empric has globe trotted in North, Central and South America for the last three years to assess record attempts.

“I’m on the road at least once a week,” said Empric, who is based in New York City. The entity shooting for a record must pay a fee for an adjudicator to attend their attempt.

Prior to arriving in Basalt this week, Empric’s last job was to check an attempt to create the largest “pinky promise chain” in a Jersey Shore community. They were successful the Sunday before Memorial Day by having 785 people link pinkies in a cancer awareness event. The prior had been set the day before, with 695 linking up in Osaka, Japan.

His next trip will be to Indianapolis, where attendees at a Women’s National Basketball Association game will try to break the world record for most people lighting glow sticks at the same time.

So goes the life on the road for a world record judge.

Basalt officials can put their feet up for a rest now.

The town set a Guinness World Record on Saturday for the largest footprint painting — but they had to work for it. Town government officials and volunteers worked for about four hours Saturday morning assembling 560 separate muslin panels smeared over the past three months with the footprints of schoolchildren, civic leaders and anyone who wanted to join the fun.

But when the time came at 10 a.m. to see if the record was set, Guinness World Record adjudicator Michael Empric determined more work was necessary. Any gap where the grass on the Willits Rugby Field was visible between the panels had to be eliminated, Empric informed organizers. The panels had to be tight so the square footage wasn’t inflated.

Workers toiled for nearly two more hours on adjustments to the 126-foot-by-180-foot painting before Empric declared it an official world record.

“You guys are officially amazing, so great job,” he announced to the crowd working on the painting and observing the festivities.

The old record was 18,134 square feet set in Hong Kong in 2012. Basalt’s footprint painting covered 21,752.83 square feet.

Basalt Assistant Town Manager Judi Tippetts, who led the “Barefoot in Basalt” effort with consultant Mary Kenyon, said 672 elementary schoolchildren, 432 middle-schoolers and 50 from high school dipped their bare feet into one of the 19 different colors of paint and left their marks on the painting. Outside of the schools, 16 other painting parties attracted everyone from preschool classes to members of the Town Council.

The panels were numbered and categorized so that they fit into a specific pattern. Once assembled, they created six symbols of scenes that depicted some aspect of Basalt. There was a big “B” for Basalt, the Colorado “C” logo, a golden retriever, a trout preparing to engulf a bug, a paint palette representing the art scene and a kayaker.

Holy Cross Energy was a sponsor of the event along with the town, Basalt Education Association and Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork. The utility company boosted photographers and VIPs high into the air in the basket of one of the trucks they use to work on power lines. It provided a bird’s-eye view of the project.

The participants were relieved after adjusting the panels that the record was set and they were done for the day.

Empric said Guinness allows a free processing system to check world-record attempts, but it carries some risk. Basalt had the option of sending Guinness photographs and videotape of its painting, but they would have to wait for a while for an assessment to be made. That might have eliminated the chance to make adjustments to capture a record. For example, wind and rain could damage Basalt’s panels.

“The good thing about having an adjudicator on site is I can say, ‘Fix this,’” Empric said. The troubleshooting has kept many a world record attempt on track, he said.

Empric estimated that 25 percent of world-record attempts fall short.

“It happens,” he said. “Every record can’t be successful.”

An entity shooting for a world record must pay Guinness a fee to send an adjudicator. Basalt paid between $4,000 and $8,000 for Empric to visit, including airfare from New York and lodging, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon. Line item budget information wasn’t at his fingertips at the park, so he estimated the fee paid to Guinness.

The project also required significant staff time, materials and other financial support.

Empric said communities, organizations and individuals eye records for a variety of reasons — team building, bringing people together, recognition and just plain fun. Scanlon hatched Basalt’s effort as community building and to ease strains created from a land-use battle over the future of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site.

Scanlon declared Saturday’s effort a success despite the initial glitch with the gaps between panels.

The footprint painting will remain intact at the Willits Rugby Field until Monday. School groups and civic organizations have requested panels that they will incorporate into displays commemorating the world record.

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