WILKES-BARRE — In a day and age where people are sharply divided, chalk was able to bring a community together for a common goal Saturday.
Area residents both young and old attempted to break Greeley, Colorado’s Guinness World Record of 3.55 miles for longest chalk drawing at the ninth annual ChalkFest, held along the River Common.
“We love to color,” said Griffin, 8, and Clark, 5, brothers from Forty Fort. “We also want to break the world record.”
“Every year, I say, ‘How can we grow this event?” said John Maday, executive director of the Riverfront Parks Committee. “Although it’s our ninth year, I saw what the Guinness World Record was and figured why not try to beat it.”
Technically, the world record is for “Longest Chalk Pavement Art.”
Whether or not Wilkes-Barre broke the record on Saturday will not be officially determined until at least Sunday.
If the effort did come up short, Mother Nature could get some of the blame.
“We had some really dramatic weather this past year,” said Maday. “The river flooded high enough that we had to change the entire course twice.”
Due to all the rain of the last few months, the course was still riddled with mud Saturday that had to be hosed off so children and their families could enjoy the day and draw.
“The weather may have impacted us breaking the world record,” added Maday. “But that’s not the important thing. We got families to come together for a common cause. I know these kids are never going to forget this day.”
While ChalkFest’s origin started when Maday went out for a run, the event has grown steadily for nine years, with over 2,000 expected to participate on Saturday.
“I saw chalk drawings when running and didn’t know that people still did that. So I told everyone that we should buy a bunch of chalk and have families come out and enjoy,” Maday recalled.
Maday said he filled out the application last October to try and accomplish the feat and received notification from Guinness in January that it was accepted.
Since January, the Riverfront Parks Committee and the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association have worked in conjunction to organize the record attempt.
They supplied 3,000 boxes of chalk, each with 12 pieces.
‘A great time’
Some chalk art was very complex and intricate while other drawings were simple. But the massive collection of art and color was impressive enough to pique everyone’s interest.
Among the masses was state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre.
“This is a wonderful community event,” Pashinski said. “There is some truly outstanding artwork and beautiful renditions of original pieces. The children are having a great time and so am I.”
Lisa Zaverack, 29, of Wilkes-Barre, participated in ChalkFest for the first time.
“When I saw it advertised, I figured why not go,” she said. “I’m an art teacher, so I knew I would have some fun.”
Zaverack, with the help of some friends, attempted to draw every country’s flag with chalk.
“We have about 180 countries on our list, so we really need to get moving if we want to complete them all,” Zaverack explained. “People have been making pit stops and certain flags we’ve drawn because of their heritage.”
Zaverack said she and her friends decided to draw chalk flags because it serves as a nice message of unity. And, truth be told, the flags proved easy to draw.
Chalk artists and others who attended were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items that would be donated to the Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank, which serves four counties in Northeast Pennsylvania.
Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes