Signs of holiday season cheer were everywhere in downtown Detroit’s Beacon Park this weekend, coated by winter’s first real snow.
Amid the white December flakes were gaudy splashes of color, mostly red and green, as the city and UglyChristmasSweater.com, based in the nearby suburbs, attempted to shatter the world record for the most holiday sweaters worn in one place.
Unlike marathon running, very little is involved for individuals helping with the possible achievement. Just show up with an ugly Christmas sweater.
Liisa and Adam Eutin, from nearby St. Claire Shores, did just that, wearing patriotic red white and blue Christmas cat sweaters. “Who doesn’t want to be part of a record?” Lisa said as Adam shrugged his shoulders and said, “my wife wanted to be part of a record, so I came.”
While from the beginning, the weather might have meant attendees were fewer than needed, Liisa said, “I think it will happen. A couple of inches of snow won’t hurt anything.”
Clipboard in hand, Kaitlin Vesper, Records Manager and official adjudicator from Guinness World Records, presided over the event. Vesper felt in Michigan that the weather shouldn’t hurt the count. “In an area that is used to cold weather, having a fun opportunity to celebrate and get into the festive holiday spirit always brings people out and gets community involvement.”
Fred Hajjar, co-owner of Uglychristmassweater.com, founded in 2012 with online retail roots dating to 2003, said “I think what started as someone wearing their own grandmother’s ugly sweater turned into a trend,” adding that, “people look at an ugly sweater and they think, ‘oh they’re festive’ and it just creates holiday joy.”
A display of ugly Christmas sweaters behind him, Hajjar was happy with the evening, but as the new arrivals grew sparse, he said, “I still think we have a ways to go.”
Attendees were counted into groups of 50 and led into Beacon Park’s temporary Winter Lodge, where DJs from three radio stations, WLIB, WNIC and Channel 955 were spinning, in anticipation of the Silent Disco After Party, where patrons would be given headphones to dance to their choice of music.
In charge of corralling was Alison Beatty, already known for organizing the largest gathering of Rosie the Riveters in nearby Ypsilanti. Beatty said, “We are putting the world on notice that Detroit is going to try to take every world record in the book, and we will keep persevering until we succeed.”
Inside, surrounded by friends and sporting a Christmas dog sweater overlaid with tiny bows, Detroiter Tierra Jones said, “I am here because I love to do anything that is happening in my city.” She credited a friend’s mother with helping her pick out the sweater.
Nearby, two volunteers organized revelers before the final countdown. Annie Ogletree, who works for the United States Housing and Urban Development said, “I came here to showcase the city, and have fun, and have a good holiday.”
Her friend Teresa Woods said she volunteers for events often. This time, however, Woods said, “I decided to be a part of something in Downtown Detroit, Michigan, and tell Detroit, and let the world know how awesome this city is.”
Still, Detroit fell short. A spokesperson said about 1,500 were in the Winter Lodge when the deadline for closing out official numbers was reached.
Detroit will have to try harder next time, but in the meantime missing the record didn’t disappoint headphone wearing attendees, who with their ugly sweaters danced until midnight.