Queen’s breaks Guinness World Record for largest human letter — & spends thousands on it

Costly Q part of marketing for the University’s 175th anniversary

Individuals gather on Nixon field to break Guinness World Record on Tuesday, September 6th.
Auston Chhor

This Tuesday, the Queen’s Class of 2020, alongside alumni, students, faculty and other volunteers, aided in breaking the Guinness World Record for largest human letter involving the most people.

Shattering the previous record of 2,166 with a whopping 3,373 participants, Nixon Field became awash with a sea of yellow t-shirts provided on the University’s dollar by the organising committee for Queen’s 175th anniversary celebrations.

“The overall 175th budget is approximately $200,000 over three years” said Queen’s Communication Officer, Anne Craig. For the event, which lasted around two and a half hours, Craig said that the University spent an estimated $9,000 — using up 4.5 per cent of the three-year funding allocation.

The overall 175th budget has spanned 18 months of planning and 18 months of execution, incurring costs such as website development, local advertising, various marketing material such as banners around campus, and a selection of signature events.

According to Craig, many faculties, departments and units across campus are also rebranding existing events to celebrate the 175th anniversary. It is unclear as to whether these rebranding measures have incurred any extra costs, due to the pre-existing events they’ll build on.

The idea for the costly Q came when “someone threw out the idea of a Guinness Record” during an executive meeting to discuss different events to kick off the celebrations of the year, according to Yvonne Cooper, director of communications.

A list of expenses incurred for the event included travel costs to bring a Guinness World Record judge to the event, finding the requirements such as measurements and mathematic statistics for the letter, and consulting with architects and engineers about their thoughts on the capacity of Nixon Field.

When asked about the merit of such a spectacle to the University, Marketing Coordinator Janelle MacPherson-Kenney simply said that their motivation was “to do something during frosh week to get the students involved, and get them to know that it is Queen’s 175th anniversary and get them excited about celebrating that throughout the year.”

MacPherson-Kenney also said that the event was opened up to alumni and Kingston community members, welcoming everyone to participate while hoping to promote team-building while marking the occasion.

Other events, including the launch of a third volume of Queen’s history and a celebration for the anniversary of the signing of the Royal Charter in October, will make further use of the $200,000 budget.

Cooper noted that the largest events will surround Homecoming Weekend and the opening of the new Richardson Stadium.

For incoming students, the record breaking event came with positive testimonials. Erin Moffat, an incoming member of the class of 2020, referenced Queen’s oft-cited reputation for school spirit, explaining that “this is why I came here!” 

Other universities have sanctioned Guinness World Record attempts in the current year’s frosh week celebrations, including a time-honoured tradition of record-attempts at Ryerson University.

The most recent attempt at Ryerson aimed to break the largest number of individuals blowing bubbles with chewing gum.

When asked by The Journal, Ryerson Student Life Programs Coordinator Akeisha Lari was unable to provide an exact expense value.

“Our expenses for our Guinness World Record Challenge are encompassed within our total events budget as we buy/rent materials and equipment that are used for multiple events,” Lari wrote in an email.

As well, the featured item was typically sponsored, as was the case with the bubble gum used for this year’s event. “So there is no cost that I can provide associated with that," she said.

Queen’s Communications Officer Anne Craig, in discussing the significantly increased financial expense for Queen’s own event, maintained that the assembly of the Q was “being managed in a cost effective manner, drawing on volunteer contributions and existing resources.”


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