Group hug falls 2,857 short of Guinness record


Everybody needs a hug now and then. On Sunday afternoon, Steven Wallis needed 2,904.

He got 47, which isn't a bad day for most folks. But Wallis, 31, the organizer of the weekend Boulder Outdoor Market in the Crossroads Mall parking lot, wanted to break the Guinness Book of Records for "largest hug " Sunday with the "Colorado Hug for Peace."

Unless you can squeeze them all into a Volkswagen Bug, 47 people generally don't cut it for Guinness's "mass participation" categories. In this case, Wallis was 2,857 short of the mark set by the Rocori area schools in Minnesota on Oct. 16, 2001.

"Was it successful? Not really," Wallis acknowledged. "We were probably lacking proper publicity and public knowledge. But it was something."

Wallis said he came up with the idea for the group hug as a way to bring people to the market, which has been hurt by the summer heat. In college, Wallis said, he participated in an attempt at the "world's largest game of musical chairs" in Albany, N.Y.

They apparently did not break the record of 8,238 participants set on Aug. 5, 1989, at the Anglo-Chinese School in Singapore (Xu Chong Wei, 15, won, and earned a trip to Bali for his efforts, according to the 2003 Guinness Book).

Considering the crowd at the Boulder Outdoor Market, gathering 47 for the hug was a relative achievement. Participants included a few shoppers and others who had driven over to the Crossroads parking lot specially to participate, as well as a number of the 18 vendors who had set up shop under tent canopies for the day.

Victoria Zhang of Boulder Valley Acupuncture briefly abandoned her massage-chair tent to participate in the group hug , which Guinness requires to be a closed circle -- more a group huddle, in fact. Sergio Ballivian, in the middle of a half-hour massage, stayed behind in the shade.

"I was chilling in the chair," he said after the hug , his face filling the massage chair`s cushioned doughnut. "She needed to do her group hug , and I needed to chill in the chair."

Aidan Allen, 11, was the 22nd person to sign up, about 2:45 p.m. He seemed disappointed.

"I thought it was cool. I just wanted to break a world record," he said.

Amanda Hargis said she was there because "I thought this would look good on my resume: participant, world`s largest group hug ."