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A History of Ursinus College’s “World’s Largest” Events

Digitized newspapers reveal a decade of record breakers

After Myrin Library was completed in 1970, the old Alumni Memorial Library (today the Berman Museum of Art) soon became home to the Student Union. Not content with pinball machines, ping pong and billiards, the Union Program Committee quickly began organizing many new activities for Ursinus students - one of which became an annual tradition: the record-breaker contest. From 1973 to 1982, there was a zany, messy, often edible attempt to make something large-scale, memorable and fun on campus - starting, of course, with the banana split!

The October 25th, 1973 Ursinus Weekly newspaper announced plans for the November 7th world record attempt. The goal was to make a 600-foot split (to beat Faith Baptist Church of Sellersville’s 597-foot claim to fame). “Nelson Ice Cream Inc. of Royersford is donating 150 gallons of ice cream; Harold Steven Co. of Allentown, 2 gallons of cherries; Dr. Theodoredis & Sons, Inc., 800 bananas and the New York Extract Company is donating 4 gallons each of chocolate, pineapple and butterscotch toppings.” Students could either sign up to help build the split or pay 25 cents to eat one foot of it (the money raised to go towards a new stereo system for the Union). News of the event spread far and wide. The November 15th, 1973 Ursinus Weekly newspaper reports that “calls were received from the president of Dole Pineapple in Hawaii who wanted to contribute fresh pineapple.” Television personality Mike Douglas even tried to persuade the College to host the event at Independence Mall in Philadelphia so that he could include it as a segment on The Mike Douglas Show.

Here is a brief summary of the other record-breaking events:

  • As reported in the November 21st, 1974 Ursinus Weekly newspaper, a 600 piece, 2,032 square foot jigsaw puzzle was constructed in the football field on November 13th. It contained a hidden message as part of the contest: “The College Union Has Done It Again.”
  • The November 20th, 1975 Ursinus Weekly newspaper covers the creation of a 640 foot long hoagie made of 110 dozen Italian rolls, 70 pounds of salami, 70 pounds of bologna, and 50 pounds of cheese.
  • The April 7th, 1977 Ursinus Weekly newspaper reports on the 500 foot long hot dog event, which had over one thousand people in attendance.
  • The largest tinker toy was assembled from fifty sets in Thompson-Gay Gymnasium. The sets were later donated to a children’s home in Norristown as told in the October 28th, 1977 Ursinus Weekly newspaper.
  • Ten teams of ten people assembled a 40 pound hamburger on campus on October 11th, 1978. Photos can be found in the October 20th, 1978 Ursinus Grizzly newspaper.
  • The October 19th, 1979 Ursinus Grizzly newspaper reports that teams of students and faculty raced to build a “Super Sundae” using fifteen gallons of ice cream.
  • Over six thousand toothpicks and eighty pounds of gumdrops were used to assemble the world’s largest molecule in the Union lounge. The final product measured twenty feet long and ten feet wide, according to the November 21st, 1980 Ursinus Grizzly newspaper.
  • Participants paid fifty cents each to help construct the world’s largest sandcastle near the gymnasium. Forty tons of sand from a local quarry were used. Photos can be found in the November 13th, 1981 Ursinus Grizzly newspaper.
  • On October 15th, 1982, an attempt was made to update the largest group of people appearing in a photograph on campus. (The record was easily broken, as only 100 students appeared in the 1912 panoramic view originally published in the Ruby by the class of 1914). A cherry picker was used to take the new photo, which was published in the November 5th, 1982 Ursinus Grizzly newspaper.