There’s no doubt that the residents who live around Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke, VA, love their lake community. So much so that they might have broken a world record while celebrating the lake’s 50th Anniversary.
This year, local residents marked the lake’s anniversary with a yearlong celebration made up of 90 events. Some of these were normal summer events that the 50th Anniversary Steering Committed kicked up a notch to create the Best Summer Ever. Other events, like the Return to the 60s Concert and the Cardboard Boat Regatta were signature events, created to honor the lake’s anniversary.
However, to top all of these activities, the Franklin County Family YMCA organized a major event aimed to pay tribute to the connectedness and power of the community. Their idea? A Guinness World Record Float!
The most recent record for a continuous float was set in Taiwan two years ago and included 634 people. The YMCA set a goal of 1,000 participants, just to ensure they had enough people to break the record. Becky Rowe of the YMCA Smith Mountain Lake said they reached their goal two weeks before the scheduled attempt in August and the registrations kept on coming.
The final number of participants hit 1,258 though the official count for the record is 1,251. To be counted as the largest float, every person in the water had to be in his or her own floating device, such as a tube or raft. Participants all held hands with the person next to them to create a long, consistent floating line. Each participant was counted as they entered the water. A helicopter and several boats monitored and recorded the event as well.
Other Smith Mountain Lake organizations like Sea Tow Smith Mountain Lake, the She Doos, the 50th Anniversary Steering Committee members, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Franklin County Sheriff boats, the Scruggs Rescue Department and the Marine Volunteer Fire/Rescue Squad helped the YMCA make this happen.
“This event would not have been possible without the assistance of these organizations,” Rowe said. “It was so much work to organize and implement the stringent regulations set forth by Guinness to have any chance that our results would be accepted. It was truly a community event.”
Sea Tow Smith Mountain Lake played a big role in making this exciting day possible. Captain Jerry Hale, a longtime resident of the lake, volunteered for the 50th Anniversary Steering Team to help plan several of the events. When he pointed out the need for someone to command the crowd and lead the float, Hale was immediately asked to take on that role. He served as the announcer for the day, pumping up the crowd and getting everyone organized long enough to record it.
“Being a captain for Sea Tow provides opportunities to connect with many aspects of lake life here,” Hale said. “I am proud to represent Sea Tow Smith Mountain Lake because it, too, is tremendously community-focused.”
Hale also wrote the Smith Mountain Lake Anniversary theme song. Yes, there is a theme song for this one-of-a-kind celebration! You can listen to the song written and produced by Hale on the Smith Mountain Lake website.
While each participant was asked to bring their own tubes or rafts as well as a personal flotation device, Sea Tow Smith Mountain Lake stocked up on life jackets to loan. Some participants either forgot their own PFD or didn’t have access to one, so Captains Nancy and Rick Ellett loaned roughly two dozen life jackets for the day. The Sea Tow Captains also offered boat traffic control to help coordinate the event.
While the community won’t know the results for a few more weeks, the experience was a success to all involved. “It was a wonderful Saturday morning in and at the Lake for all who participated,” Hale said.