More than 2,500 people of all ages gathered this past Saturday morning on the Walkway over the Hudson to take part in a Guinness World Record-breaking challenge: to dance for five minutes continuously, in a line, to the Hokey Pokey!
Dancers from all over the Hudson Valley, New York State and some from foreign countries stretched in a line on the north side of the 1.28 mile-long Walkway (the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world) from the Town of Lloyd to the City of Poughkeepsie. The challenge before them was to attempt to break the previous record established in June 2008 by 2,354 Estonians who performed the Toe Dance, an Estonian folk dance.
Radios and volunteers were strewn across the Walkway — a New York State Park since 2009 and a historical landmark, as it was converted from an old railroad bridge to a pedestrian bridge — providing a live broadcast by WEOK-AM 1390 from the center of the bridge that helped to guide all 2,569 participants to local singer/storyteller Laurie McIntosh’s own version of the classic Hokey Pokey song.
As the dancers lined up and warmed up and began to get into line, a helicopter circled the “Park in the Sky,” taking pictures of the event for the Guinness Book of World Records. The Guinness adjudicator, Danny Girton, Jr., certainly dressed the part, wearing a black suit and tie and carrying an official “Record-Breaking” clipboard and stopwatch to ensure that the entire line kept dancing in sync for five straight minutes. Asked what he enjoyed about being an impartial judge for the Guinness Book of World Records — a job that takes him from his home in Fishkill all the way around the world — he said, “It’s wonderful to see ordinary people do extraordinary things; and while witnessing it, you’re witnessing history in the making. Just look at this,” he said, glancing east, then west at the mile-plus-long line of dancers perched 212 feet above the mighty Hudson River, all drawn together in a whimsical effort to become part of the history books and to help support the not-for-profit Walkway over the Hudson park and organization.
“We’re always looking for unique and special events to sponsor on the Walkway,” said Sally Mazzarella, chair of the Walkway Board. “We thought we had a great stage to try and set a Guinness Book World Record, and after speaking with them, we concurred that a line dance would be our best bet. We selected the Hokey Pokey because it’s a song that almost everyone knows; it’s a song that people of all ages can dance to and participate in. And what you see here today is the result: thousands of people gathered together, from babies in strollers to senior citizens — which is what the Walkway is all about: getting people walking, biking, jogging and enjoying the wonder of this amazing linear park over the Hudson!”
The enthusiasm was palpable as the radio station began warming the crowd up with the Macarena. Hips were moving, legs were hopping, spirits were soaring. Among the participants were a group of Zumba classmates from Port Ewen who wanted to put their dancing to the test on this historic day. “I read about it, and at first no one wanted to do it with me,” said Donna Lawrence, with more than a half-dozen of her friends all sporting “Zumba” tee-shirts. “So I brought the idea to my Zumba class, and they were gung-ho!”