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Technical foul: Hoschton's bid for scarecrow record denied by Guinness

POSTED: December 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.

HOSCHTON — The Hoschton Fall Festival Committee is considering an appeal of Guinness World Records’ decision not to award the city of Hoschton with the world record for the most scarecrows in one area.

Robbie Bettis, owner of the Braselton Antique Mall and one of the main coordinators for the city’s scarecrow efforts, said she received an e-mail from Guinness stating Hoschton had not achieved the world record "due to the location."

"We’re kind of thinking about asking for an appeal, and that’s why we say we haven’t received the honor yet," Bettis said Tuesday.

The idea to set the record grew out of the scarecrow contest held every year at the Hoschton Fall Festival, and Bettis headed up the scarecrow efforts.

With help from local residents and people in nearby towns, the city gathered a total of 5,441 scarecrows scattered in neighborhoods and along roads throughout the city.

In May, the city announced its bid to break the current record, which was set by Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2003 with 3,311 scarecrows. By its Sept. 1 deadline, the city boasted an impressive 5,441 stuffed characters that ranged from Elvis Presley to Jesus Christ.

The Ohio record setters had their scarecrows displayed in one place at a show, Bettis said, while Hoschton’s scarecrows were spread out throughout the Hoschton zip code. Bettis cited this technicality, and the rules Guinness set forth for the record, as the reasons for not receiving the official record.

"Their information they give you to start with is open and they leave it rather ambiguous," she said. "We’re declaring in our own right that we’re world record holders, though we can’t use the name Guinness when we say that."

Hoschton City Clerk Kristen Smith said the city would have taken the scarecrows to one spot had the organizers known how specific Guinness would be in analyzing Hoschton’s efforts.

"My understanding is ... the way that we sent in the application, it showed on the application that what we wanted to consider as the location was the 30548 zip code and the application was accepted. And the response that we got 11 weeks after we sent all of that information was that Hoschton was disqualified because they were not going to consider 30548 a location. It would need to be a field or a farm or one plot of land," Smith said.

"So if we had been informed or somehow knew prior to sending the information in to Guinness that they weren’t going to accept 30548 as a location, we would have done everything and anything to move all the scarecrows to the Kenerly Farm."

Despite the news from Guinness, Bettis said she’s optimistic and has received phone calls in support if the city decides to appeal Guinness’s decision.

"We went beyond expectations," she said. "We’re so pleased with the scarecrows ... and the community spirit has been unbelievable."

Smith echoed Bettis’ sentiments, saying that the city accomplished its goal and had fun doing it.

"We tried and we achieved what we wanted to — it brought people together, it was fun, it was inexpensive, it brought people to Hoschton that might not have come to Hoschton otherwise and it gave us amazing exposure via the internet and the Web site," Smith said.

Media outlets in cities as close as Athens and as far away as London, England and Dublin, Ireland, picked up on Hoschton’s dedication to setting the world record. A radio station in Ireland called Bettis to ask for her thoughts on the city’s efforts, which brought more people through the city and gave the local economy a boost.

"People can pronounce our name now," Bettis said.

Many residents and local businesses contributed to Hoschton’s attempt at world record status. Little Hooties donated food and drinks to those making scarecrows at the all-day scarecrow workshop on Aug. 27, and Publix at West Jackson Crossing has held all-day workshops to encourage people to build scarecrows.

And to celebrate the city’s hard work, the Hoschton Fall Festival Committee will hold a celebration bonfire at 5 p.m. Jan. 3 at the Kenerly Farm on Ga. 53, according to Bettis. Residents are encouraged to bring their scarecrows to be placed on the bonfire, and hot chocolate will be provided for attendees.



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