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I've finally tasted success and it was sweet: The fun of being part of a Guinness World Record event.

On May 18, 2024, North Dakota yet again proved how awesome it is.

At Fort Stevenson State Park, an official attempt was underway to break the Guinness World Record for the Most People Making S’mores Simultaneously. There are other records a person or state could break, sure, but in a world gone completely insane, this oddly seemed appropriate. We take camping seriously.

The gates to the event area opened at 1:30 p.m., but my friend and I got to the park at 1 p.m. to stamp our state park passport book and find a parking spot. There were lots of volunteers, from park rangers to people wearing blaze orange T-shirts. There were also a handful of people proving that with or without parking lines, they will never be able to park in a logical and coherent manner.

But oh well. This was to be a jolly day and parking faux pas were forgiven.

Near the event area, oldies rock and roll was playing, kids were screaming and climbing all over an elaborate playground, and between the life-sucking gusts of nearly 40 mph wind that was whipping up white-cap waves on Lake Sakakawea, the excitement was palpable. People and cars just kept streaming in and I was relieved; with the kind of windy day it was, I wasn’t sure how many would come to an event that involved fire.

I felt part of something big and important, involving no war-time munitions or angry raging activists. It was a delightful moment to pursue measurable success.

While waiting in line to enter the fenced area, volunteers came around with a piece of paper listing the specific rules to qualify for this record:

  • Marshmallows had to be roasted for exactly 20 seconds and then the s’more was to be assembled.

  • We were not to leave the fenced in area.

  • We only got one cup of supplies so if we lost or destroyed it, we were out.

  • We couldn’t eat the s’more until it was verified by the assigned steward as a viable s’more.

  • If the marshmallow fell into the fire, that was a disqualification.

I’ve never felt such pressure making a s’more before. I wasn’t confident my college degree was enough preparation for this.

Lord, I quietly prayed as I looked over the rules, you have seen my many s’more fatalities over the years. You have seen me turn a marshmallow into a golden idol and also a flaming weapon to wage war and annoyance on my fellow campers. You remember the stale graham crackers that caused me to toss a s’more in the fire. I ask you to help me today to do my state proud. Amen.

Slowly we made our way to the entrance of the fenced area where a Guinness World Record official handed out numbered wristbands carefully, a rabies-free giant racoon took photos with kids who have obviously never had a racoon get into their property and ruin stuff so they don’t know the bitterness yet, and volunteers in a trailer busily handed out commemorative marshmallow roasting sticks and plastic cups with the ingredients.

“Don’t open the cups!” they yelled over and over.

Just knowing people and how well they listen to things like rules, speed limits, signs that say don’t park here, and pretty much everything else, I wasn’t sure we’d have enough wiggle room to account for likely rule breakers, even with my wristband number sitting at 1080.

Also, I wondered how many people were going to jab themselves or others unfortunately with the collapsible sticks. Perhaps we were going for the world record of most eye injuries at one event.

With the wind a non-stop force, putting the flimsy wristband while holding the s’more kit and moving on in line to be assigned a table was no easy thing. World record for most right-handed people fumbling with their left hand while cursing the wind, maybe.

Waiting in line a second time, the oldies rock and roll blaring and people’s excitement just as strong as the wind, I hoped we could pull it off. Last year, Texas set the record for Most People Making S’more’s Simultaneously with 891 people. I had high hopes with my wristband number at 1080, but who knew?

Someone could drop a marshmallow. Someone might eat it before it was checked. Someone might open their kit before they were supposed to. Someone might roast a marshmallow before the official 20-second count was called to start.

Someone named Julie, for example.

“I’m actually kind of nervous,” I told my friend. What if I was the schmuck who bumfoozled making a s’more and caused my beloved state to miss the mark?

I’d have to move to South Dakota.

I couldn’t bear it.

Joking with the people behind us in line, I admitted a main draw for me was the free commemorative marshmallow roasting stick for the first 1200 participants. I then joked that I was joking, but I think we all know I wasn’t.

As Dennis Nedry said in the movie Jurassic Park, “…look, look, stick, stick, yeah stick. Stick, stupid. Fetch the stick.”

I will drive an hour and a half and stand in line nearly as long to fetch a stick, no question. The plastic cup containing the marshmallow, two graham crackers, and melty chocolate was a bonus, and both items were promptly added to the camper when I got home. Future camping trips are going to be filled with campfire stories that grow ever more glorious as I tell the time I broke a world record, bloating the details like a roasting marshmallow puffing up over the heat.

The planning and logistics of the event were lovely to behold, because I love a well-planned event. Picnic tables, with room for ten at each and monitored by a steward, were spaced around the fenced in area with quick fire pits assembled for each table.

The fire pits were a mound of dirt with a disposable aluminum baking tin filled with charcoal and a tuft of kindling. Volunteers doused it with fire starter and then lit them up. It was the smell of chemicals and charcoal and imminent success.

Thankfully, fire danger was low. With winds gusting to 40 mph, lighting little fires all over could be sketchy. This part of the challenge should have garnered its own world record. Most individual fires lit on a dangerously windy day, perhaps. But it all went splendidly.

Soon, the announcer readied the crowd, turned on Europe’s “The Final Countdown” song, obligatory at any timed event, and we were released by the steward to crouch around our fire pit.

“Begin roasting your marshmallows!” rang out, and into the coals they went as the twenty-second countdown proceeded.

Yes, mine started on fire. I shoved it as close to the coals as I could get, waiting for the radiant heat to spark it. Because 20 seconds is too short and I wanted my chocolate to melt not just from being in the plastic cup out in the sun, but because a hot roasted marshmallow steak was crushing it.

Success was mine.

After the stewards checked our s’mores, we could eat them, a delicious mashup of sort of roasted marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers, and a hint of fire starter.

And then we waited. The DJ played songs to keep people occupied for those who were sticking around to see what the numbers were. After the hokey pokey, Macarena, Baby Shark (which caused some groaning from the adults in the crowd), and a variety of other songs that could cause careless adults to break a hip and change the trajectory of their life, the officials took to the stage.

I was pretty excited. Could this be, finally, after years of college and careers and efforts and failures, my moment of measurable and officially verified success?

I held my breath.

“And now for the official results…” she said into the microphone.

When the Guinness World Records official announced our number at 1,150, you could barely hear the last numbers because people started to cheer. There were 13 disqualifications, thankfully not me though my thoughts and prayers went out to those folks but…WE DID IT!

I’m going to think of it as the day that North Dakota defeated Texas and will, from this day forward, remind anyone I meet from Texas, of the Great S’mores War of 2023-2024 and how they can remember the Alamo but we will remember Fort Stevenson.

Take that, Texas.


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