Atlanta ‘Grown-Up Playtime’ Group Reaches For World Record

Alison Guillory / WABE

Metro Atlanta is often referred to as the home of the “world’s busiest airport.” But it could also be called the home of the “largest collection of toothpaste tubes,” the site of the “largest game of Minesweeper” and the witness to the “largest simultaneous whoopie cushion sit-in.”

According to a search on the Guinness Book of World Records’ website database, metro Atlanta and its regional institutions have been involved in around 40 world records. Many of those are due to the 1996 Summer Olympics (“largest attendance at an Olympic Games,” “most Olympic long jump medals,” “first redneck games”) or regional sports teams (“worst start to a WNBA season,” “longest play in postseason NFL history,” “most ejections in a Major League Baseball career”).

Others are due to hometown corporations like Coca-Cola (“largest soda float”) and Delta Air Lines (“largest greeting card replica”). 

One group of Atlantans hopes to join these history makers and be the ones to bring home the figurative gold for “largest gathering of people dressed as garden gnomes.”

The Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons, a local group “advocating grown-up playtime,” is best known for creating and hosting the Atlanta BeltLine Lantern parade. But for the last five years, they have also invited the public to join them in their march in the Inman Park Festival parade, as they dress up in garden gnome costumes and raising awareness of a number of pun-riddled topics.

Chantelle Rytter, captain of the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons, lists some of their causes:”Fighting gnomophobia, legalizing weeds, free the dandelions and numerous other gnome issues.”

Rytter started the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons in New Orleans in 1999, inspired by the city’s parade culture. When she moved to Atlanta, she brought the group’s name and ideology with her.

“In the absence of parade culture, we wanted to be able to invite everyone to parade with us,” she said while standing at the Inman Park festival, dressed as a female garden gnome in a jumper dress and a bright red cone hat.

The Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons marched as gnomes in the Inman Park parade for two years before opening their invitation to the public. Rytter said, in the early days of the group’s march, she contacted the Guinness Book of World Records to attempt to place the record.

But, she said, the Great Britain-based world record authority did not accept their submission. The “largest gathering of people dressed as garden gnomes” title was first placed in Canada in 2011, in an event sponsored by eOne films and tied to the premiere of the animated film “Gnomeo and Juliet.” Later that same year, the BBC beat the original record in an event raising funds for the charity BBC Children in Need.

That record, at 478 gnomes, still stands today.

“We’ve been trying to beat the Brits ever since,” Rytter said. “We’d love to win but we don’t really care … It’s more about the playing than the winning.”

At the 2016 Inman Park Festival, a sea of pointy red hats took up the space of several floats in the parade. Participants – including infant gnomes and solemn “Gnomeland Security” officials – kept up a roar of chants and whistles as they marched the mile-long path to the end of the route.

At the end of that route, in a wild clover-dotted meadow in the Freedom Park Connector, Rytter had marked off a large circle with caution tape – what she referred to as the “gnome mushroom.” According to Rytter, Guinness required participants to be recorded in a contained space for records like this.

“Should we ever get 479 gnomes, we would need to stand in the mushroom and record it for five minutes to submit for evidence,” she explained.

At the end of the parade, Rytter stood at the entrance to the “gnome mushroom” with an iPhone in one hand and the other held up high. As participants filed one-by-one into the circle, Rytter tallied them each with a high five and recorded the interaction with her phone.

Although this year’s attempt ended up being 200 garden gnomes short of the record, Rytter was optimistic about their next attempt.

“If our 279 people had 200 friends, we could do it,” she said, noting that this was their team’s personal best. She said they had considered trying to set the record for “most failed attempts,” but she was hopeful that the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons could beat their current goal with the help of the Atlanta community.

She said this world record attempt, in all its silliness, is really a reflection of the city: “Atlanta is fun and irreverent and quirky and inclusive. You can dress up as a gnome and come make a bunch of new friends today!”