Guinness confirms Fairfield’s record
The Guinness Book of World Records confirmed Monday that Fairfield broke the record for the largest gathering of people wearing false mustaches.
Fairfield accomplished the feat July 26 when RAGBRAI came to town. Guinness has not confirmed the exact number of people local organizers believe wore fake mustaches that day.
Terry Baker is the assistant director of the Fairfield Iowa Convention & Visitors Bureau and a member of the Fairfield RAGBRAI executive committee. The official number of people wearing fake mustaches that Baker submitted to Guinness was 2,268. Baker said the real number was closer to 2,500, but because of certain technicalities, not everyone who participated in the event was counted.
The Fairfield RAGBRAI committee had to submit an immense amount of paperwork, photographs and video evidence to Guinness to prove how many people donned false ‘staches that day. For example, the committee needed almost 50 people to act as “stewards” during the event. Stewards were responsible for distributing the fake mustaches, making sure people wore the mustaches at the appropriate time and for reporting any instances of a person’s mustache falling off.
Participants gathered on the courthouse lawn that afternoon. A temporary fence was erected around the perimeter of the southern half of the block to control who would be counted and who would not. When a participant entered the fenced-in area, he was given a wristband with a number on it.
Stewards held up signs that featured a number range. If the participant’s number fell in that range, he went to that steward to obtain a mustache and to give the steward a piece of paper containing his number.
One of the requirements to make the count official was for the stewards to submit a written report about their experience and whether they observed any problems, such as people not wearing mustaches. Baker collected these reports and sent them to Guinness.
Unfortunately, not all of the stewards who volunteered for the event showed up. The executive committee had to enlist stewards at the last minute from the crowd. Baker said four or five of the stewards did not complete a report for Guinness, so she was not able to count the participants who had those stewards.
Guinness wanted visual evidence of the event in addition to the reports. The executive committee asked four photographers to snap shots of the proceedings from four vantage points. One photographer was in the crowd; one was on the roof of the convention center; another was on the roof of the building south of the courthouse; and a fourth was a “floater” who drifted inside and outside the fenced-in area.
Two people were in charge of videotaping the event from two different angles. They started taping as soon as the first person was let through the gate and did not stop until the event was finished. From start to finish each video lasted an hour.
In order to break the record, the participants had to keep their mustaches on for five minutes. To be on the safe side, the RAGBRAI committee asked everyone to keep theirs on for six minutes. The committee asked participants to wait until just before the air horn sounded before donning their mustaches in case the adhesive wore away after several minutes of use.
Baker said there was a snafu that afternoon because the air horn was sounded prematurely. Shortly after the false start, everyone was notified the official stopwatch was about to begin and to be sure they were wearing their mustache. Two people were in charge of keeping the official time. Two more people were in charge of counting all the stubs from the wristbands afterward.
The executive committee had 4,000 wristbands available. However, Baker said the committee did not have enough stewards lined-up for that many people, so even if 4,000 people had shown up that day the committee could not have counted them all.
Baker is not certain about the publicity Fairfield will receive now that it has broken the record. She said Fairfield could be featured in the Guinness Book of World Records, but she doesn’t know yet.
She said the decision to try to break the record came only after the executive committee decided on its theme for RAGBRAI, which was “hold on to your handlebars.” The committee looked into the work involved in breaking the record and decided it was within their reach.
The former record was 1,532 people wearing fake mustaches at one time, which was set in March at the Gilda LaughFest in Grand Rapids, Mich. Fairfield and Grand Rapids developed a friendly competition once the LaughFest organizers found out Fairfield was trying to break their record.
The two towns made a deal that if Fairfield broke the record, the organizers in Grand Rapids would have to be photographed wearing the Fairfield RAGBRAI T-shirts. If Fairfield failed to break the record, its organizers would have to don LaughFest T-shirts and have their photo taken.
Even before Guinness recognized Fairfield had broken the record, the people in Grand Rapids conceded the title and lived up to their end of the bet by wearing “Cirque de Fairfield” T-shirts. In a sign of good sportsmanship, Fairfield’s executive committee wore LaughFest T-shirts anyway and sent that photo to Grand Rapids. After the photo was taken, the executive committee donated the LaughFest T-shirts to Cody Cohen, a 2013 graduate of Fairfield High School who is battling a blood disease.