Listen up, New York, London, Paris and Rome:
In the space of a few minutes Sunday, Columbia outdid you and everyone else on the planet by setting a new world record in the number of bow ties tied simultaneously – 823 – within five minutes.
“I can now announce that today you have eight hundred and ...,” said Guinness World Records adjudicator Michael Empric, whose final words were lost as a joyful bedlam erupted in a throng of more than 1,000 at the Columbia Convention Center.
Once Empric said “800,” the crowd didn’t have to hear the rest.
Everyone knew the previous world record of 417 bow ties being tied in five minutes simultaneously had been set in Birmingham, United Kingdom, in 2012.
Just before revealing the news, Empric milked the moment for suspense. Some people who tied their bow ties, he told the crowd, had been eliminated from the final tally because they didn’t tie their bow ties correctly.
But Master of Ceremonies Todd Ellis – a former University of South Carolina star quarterback who is now a Columbia lawyer and well-known USC football announcer – sensed victory.
“I feel good about this!” yelled Ellis, his trademark gravelly voice crescendoing like pebbles in a bucket. “This feels almost as good as winning five in a row!”
When Empric made the announcement, Ellis shouted over the cheers, “Great job everybody! Oh myyyyyy! Are you kidding me?”
Despite the whimsical nature of bow tie tying, the two-hour affair had months of serious planning behind it.
And bow ties – despite taking up very little real estate on a person’s neck – are an art form among the cognoscenti. After all, there are butterfly bow ties, diamond tipped bow ties, slim bow ties, king-sized bow ties, to name a few shapes. A bow tie is like the violin: some people just can’t do it, no matter how hard they try. For them, there are clip-ons – definitely against the rules Sunday.
Anyone trying to break a Guinness World Record has to fill out a detailed application.
“They have a very extensive website, they want people to contact them,” said Rachel Barnett, a special events coordinator instrumental in the planning.
The Columbia sponsors also paid a fee – “less than $10,000” – to fly Empric in to verify the event is done by the rules and certify the results as they happen, Barnett said. “You get a lot of support from Guinness. We started planning in June, and in August, we really decided to go for it.”
Numerous people, business and groups donated time and resources, she said. Organizers held weekly meetings.
“We had lists every week, and we said, ‘What is the best way to set this up so we don’t have chaos,” Barnett said. “We prepared for up to 1,000.”
Among the details: creating a series of nine roped off pens that hold about 100 people each. That made for easier counting.
Ellis donated his time. So did the band Seventy Six and Sunny. The Columbia Convention Center donated space.
“We pushed really hard to teach people how to tie bow ties,” she said.
Dance Marathon members – a group of USC students that raises money for Palmetto Health children’s hospital – went to various locales, teaching people how to tie bow ties. Local middle and high schools have bow tie clubs. The Dreher High School girls’ basketball team learned how to tie bow ties. Social and traditional media carried numerous blurbs and stories.
Some notable bow tie wearers were at the convention center Sunday, including Jay Bender, the state’s foremost authority on the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, and his wife, Anne Cushman. Both wore bow ties. However, State Supreme Court chief justice Jean Toal, for years a noted bow tie wearer, wasn’t there.
Brittons Fine Clothes, a main event sponsor, set up a booth and by the end of the event had sold some 150 commemorative bow ties from between $55 and $60. The proceeds will go to Dance Marathon, which will in turn donate that money to the children’s hospital, sponsors said.
“We had a good time, raised money for the children’s hospital, and broke a world’s record,” said Brittons manager Perry Lancaster .
And one other thing:
“The motto of this event was ‘Tie People Together,’ ” said Samuel Tenenbaum, president of Palmetto Health Foundation. “That’s what this did – you had old people, young people, white, black, men, women, students, nonstudents.”