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Guinness World Record Targeted at Northwest Folklife Festival

PORT HADLOCK, Wash. — The magic number is 852. That’s the number of documented harmonica players that will need to participate to set a new Guinness Book of World Records mark for the world’s largest harmonica band at this year’s Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle.

“We’ll be playing either ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ or ‘When the Saints go Marching In,” said Robert Force, Washington State University Jefferson County Extension educator who is helping organize the record- breaking attempt. “We haven’t decided.”

The record-setting attempt will take place on Sunday, May 29, on Folklife’s Fisher Green Stage at the Seattle Center starting at 6 pm. WSU Extension, Washington State 4-H and the Andy Mackie Music Foundation are organizing the effort.

Force says that at least 852 participants will have to play together for five minutes to topple the previous record of 851 set by a group in Poland. All festival goers are encouraged to join the record breaking effort.

Arrangements are being made to use the WSU 4-H Mobile Technology Van’s satellite uplink capability to make the effort available on the Internet so that viewers can watch or even blow along.

According to Force, verifying the number of participants for the Guinness Book of World records is a major challenge.

“Guinness offered to send what they call an invigilator to verify the outcome, but we would have had to pay to bring him out,” Force said. “So we’ll verify participation through a registration system for participants, as well as taking photos, using video and reviewing media coverage of the event.”

Andy Mackie, who will lead the band, hopes to keep the group playing together continuously for 20 minutes, although the band only needs to play continuously for five minutes to qualify for the record.

Mackie, a Jefferson County 4-H leader, is an icon on the Olympic Peninsula for his work through 4-H and local school programs in teaching kids not only how to play but how to build their own guitars, dulcimers and other instruments.

Mackie will have instrument-building tables in the hands-on activity area at the Northwest Folklife Festival where he’ll make available inexpensive harmonica kits that are easy to put together and teach festival goers to play. He’s planning to buy 3,000 harmonicas, which he makes available to children for $2.50 and to adults for $5.00.

A number of schools where Mackie has taught instrument building have committed to having representatives at the festival to demonstrate their skills, and to participate in the world record effort. Bainbridge Island, Port Townsend and Poulsbo high schools will be represented.

Through his foundation Mackie is raising funds to help bring the Quilcene and Chimacum high school bands to the festival at a cost of $350 per busload. Tax- deductible donations can be made to the Andy Mackie Music Foundation by going to www.friendsofbrinnon.org.

More information about the 2005 Northwest Folklife Festival is available at www.nwfolklife.org.

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Media Contacts

Robert Force, WSU Jefferson County Extension, 360-379-5610