Rules change snares Galax mando record attempt

Successful attempt to set the Guinness World Record for Largest Mandolin Ensemble at the Old Fiddler's Convention in Galax, VA (8/4/15) - photo by Perrie CokerTara Linhardt, the driving force behind the two recent Guinness Book of World Record attempts for the largest mandolin ensemble during recent Old Fiddlers Conventions in Galax, VA, has released a forlorn statement on their most recent quest.

It seems that a more severe interpretation of the venue rules has led to disapproval of their August 2015 attempt to retake the record. Tara and her many mando marshals were successful in rounding up and registering enough players to beat the existing record of 414. They presented Guinness with all the registration paperwork for 491 mandolinists, along with video and photographic evidence of their performance of 4 songs as a group, but because the bleachers in Galax were not fully enclosed – as Guinness guidelines indicate is required – they were not approved.

Nothing was changed in how the attempt was managed and recorded successfully in 2012, but the Guinness representative responsible for approval this time around was not swayed.

Here is Tara’s statement…

Tara Linhardt at the Guinness mando attempt at galax - photo by Sheeler Newman“To all those involved with or following our Largest Mandolin Ensemble World’s Record…

Well, I finally heard back from the folks at Guinness World’s Records and they said that they were not happy with the openness of our venue so have not approved our application for The Largest Mandolin Ensemble. I want to offer my sincerest thanks to all who participated and my humblest apologies as well. When one tries to put together big things in a public forum, sometimes one has huge public successes, and sometimes huge public… not successes…

The main issue the Guinness man mentioned (we had a number of emails back and forth as I tried to win the guy over) was that they were worried that someone could have signed in, taken a number and then not played and left because we had an open area in which we played. They would have rather had our Largest Mandolin Band be in a walled in structure ensuring that no one could come or go after they had signed in with only one door that could be the place of entry. We did do the same thing and were approved in 2012, but they added new stricter policies about that issue in 2014.

I have heard from many people that many record attempts are made around the globe for Guinness World Records, and that many of the attempts succeed in their aim the day of the event, but end up not getting official approval from Guinness and making it into the record books. Like many things in life, perhaps it is important to enjoy the process and not just the end result. Hopefully, most of us who came together and made the Largest Mandolin Band in the History of the Universe (at 491 mandolin players) in Galax, VA had an enjoyable and memorable time playing with a previously unheard amount of mandolins on tunes that are the most standard of standard for us traditional musicianer types. Some great YouTubes were made and most folks playing in the band have huge grins on their faces, as do many of the folks watching it. Even if Guinness may not acknowledge the record, we know that we did it and that we rocked it too. Some of those involved still have the Guinness Certificate from 2012 from our first victory. Thank you again and so sorry that we did not get approval this time. (And I do not plan on any further attempts.)”

So sorry… no cigar this time. And with Tara bowing out, someone else will have to pick up the mantle and carry it forward.

The Galax festival really doesn’t have another structure or building suitable for these restrictions, so perhaps it can be attempted at one of the other large contest festivals around the country. Until then, the largest mandolin ensemble record belongs to Crete.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.