Attempt to break world record for largest ‘human ice cream cone’ in DC neighborhood doesn’t quite go as planned

A world record attempt for the largest human ice cream cone … could DC do it?

Everyone loves ice cream on a hot, summer day. And trying to break a Guinness World Record is about as American as it gets, especially on the Fourth of July. But when it came time to break the record for the biggest “human ice cream cone” ever, it seems the heat — just like it would with real ice cream — won out.

Following a parade along Capitol Hill, hundreds of people signed up to try to help break this obscure record. The goal was to group together for a picture looking like an ice cream cone.

“It’s summertime. It’s hot. It’s ice cream,” explained Brian Ready, who runs Barracks Row Main Steet, the civic group that organized the effort “It’s a wonderful community event to get people out in the community. I think it’s a great record to do.”

But breaking a world record is really hard to organize, as he would soon find out.

“This is very challenging,” said Sarah Casson, an official adjudicator for Guinness World Records.

“Honestly, anything that’s what we call ‘a mass participation record’ … definitely presents its own challenge,” she said. “You have to get everyone in place. Get everyone following the rules, count them accurately. So that is a big challenge just to get everyone organized.”

Participants were excited to take part — at first.

An attempt to break the world record for the largest human ice cream cone in the Barracks Row neighborhood of D.C. didn’t quite go as planned. (WTOP/John Domen)

“I’ve been standing for most of my life so I think I’ve got this,” said Stephanie Murray-Miller, who lives in Missouri but was in D.C. to visit a friend. “I’ve ate some ice cream before so that was another preparation.”

That sort of good humor, you might call it, among those participating would soon melt away in the heat, though.

You see, part of looking like ice cream cone involved putting on a poncho. In that heat, with no shade, patience melted away even faster inside that plastic bag. At least one participant even needed help from paramedics.

To make matters worse, the city forced organizers to move the lift used to take a picture from 8th and D Streets Southeast closer to the 7th and D Streets SE side of things, meaning the picture would be upside down. A tree initially got in the way, too, forcing people to stand longer as organizers tried to figure out how to move the cherry picker closer to the street for a better shot.

Standing high up in the lift, Ready pleaded with people to bunch closer together in circles, so the various colors of red, white, and blue ponchos, representing different flavors of ice cream, would be in a circle, similar to a real ice cream scoop. To his growing disappointment, they looked more like loose bands of people waiting in line than ice cream scoops.

An attempt to break the world record for the largest human ice cream cone in the Barracks Row neighborhood of D.C. didn’t quite go as planned. (WTOP/John Domen)

Still, he fired off a few pictures with his phone and then showed them to Casson, hoping for the best.

The goal was to get at least 479 people to participate, and come up with a picture that was unmistakably a group of people forming a giant ice cream cone. More than 700 people had indicated interest online, but as the lift came down, Ready knew the outcome.

“Unfortunately I was not able to validate that this record met all of our guidelines,” Casson told those who stuck around to hear her decision. “We were not able to get a completely accurate count in the moment of the record attempt. Also, there was not a very clear image of the ice cream cone up to the caliber that we would require to consider this a broken record. But it was still a valiant attempt.”

Those who participated, the grown-ups and the kids, who all hoped they would be part of a world record, will have to try again another time.

“I think we did the best we could,” said Ready, himself worn down from the heat as he waited for the lift to take him back to the ground. But most people who participated still had fun, as they hoped to be part of something legendary and permanent.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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