Marion County sets world marshmallow-roasting record

Marion County Park and Lake has set a world record for the most people roasting marshmallows at once: 1,272 people, to be exact.

Originally, there were 1,282 entries, but 10 participants were disqualified when their marshmallows fell off their sticks or weren’t roasted enough, said Steve Hudson, the park’s superintendent.

Marshmallows had to be blackened, browned or discolored to qualify as “roasted.”

To make sure Guinness World Records would count their attempt, the Marion County team had to submit official statements by two auditors and supervisors of the event, as well as video and photo documentation, Hudson said.

Organizers could have hired an official from Guinness, but that would have been too expensive, Hudson said.

So, on March 24, approximately 1,400 people, including fire and emergency crews, gathered around a bonfire that was an eighth of a mile long, 6 feet wide and 3 feet tall.

But there was a slight problem: The fire was too hot.

“It was really smoky and hard to approach the fire,” Hudson said.

After the fire department hosed off the fire to cool it down, a cannon went off, and all 1,282 participants put their roasting sticks, with marshmallows attached, into the fire for 10 seconds.

Boy Scout troop leaders served as marshmallow specialists to verify that each marshmallow had been roasted, Hudson said.

During the record-setting event, Jackie Volbrecht sold T-shirts and sweatshirts to raise money for Circles Initiative, a national organization whose goal is to eradicate poverty.

Her organization started selling the shirts three weeks before the event.

Marion County has about 1,200 people, Volbrecht said. She ordered 500 shirts and sold all of them, making $6,000.

“Most people didn’t think we’d get it done,” she said.

After the last sweatshirt sold, Volbrecht’s group was the last to get in.

“I looked down the row and all I saw were these sticks with little white marshmallows on them,” she said. “It was kind of surreal to see those little marshmallows floating in the air.”

About 50 bags of large marshmallows donated from a local grocery and more than 1,900 roasting sticks made of willow branches were used to set the world record.

Marion County Park and Lake will receive official certificates from Guinness World Records, and they are looking into how participants can get their own copy, too, Hudson said.

Hudson said they don’t plan to host another marshmallow roast but would consider it if they need to regain their title.

The world record came out of jokes about what to do with a large brush pile left after a windstorm in June 2011.

“Out of that bad storm came a really fun event and helped start (our) organization,” Volbrecht said.

Beccy Tanner of The Eagle contributed to this report.