Students from throughout Lee County could soon hold a new title: Guinness World Record Holder. That's because hundreds of them participated in an attempt this week to break the record for most people simultaneously planting flower bulbs at one time.
The attempt was organized by the Lee County Economic Development Group. It took place at the Lee County Conservation Office near Montrose.
A large "L-shaped" strip of land in front of the building was freshly tilled to allow for the rapid planting of tulips and blazing stars. Small, lime-green wire flags covered the dirt, showing exactly where the bulbs would be planted.
There were also special dividers in place, sectioning off the ground so 50 people would plant their 250 bulbs in a specific area. No one could help with the planting and everyone had to plant all five bulbs.
LCEDG estimates it took roughly 1,400 volunteers about 30 minutes to plant about 7,000 bulbs. That's half the time they were allowed by Guinness World Records. It looked like a school parking lot at the end of the day, with buses lined up and students milling about.
About 300 of the students came from George Washington Elementary in Keokuk. Principal Nicole Nemecek said she is glad her students got an opportunity to participate.
"It's awesome. It's an amazing experience that these kids get to participate in. It's probably something they might never get to participate in again," said Nemecek. "I don't know if they understand what it means right now, but they can open that book when it comes out and point to it and say, 'I was there that day.'"
Nemecek said the organizers did a good job of preparing her teachers and staff about what to expect during the event, which took about four months to plan and organize.
"All the teachers had an instruction sheet and diagrams to get ready," said Nemecek. "We have been talking to the kids about planting the tulips and what it will look like. In years to come, they will be able to look at this and know they had a part in it."
The George Washington students were spread out along the planting zone. 4th graders Thomas Nemecek (Nicole's son) and Kaleigh Fountain worked side by side as soon as the horn was sounded to signal to the volunteers to begin planting.
They said they were happy to be outside and with their friends instead of being in the classroom.
"This will be really fun, and I bet everybody around here is really excited to do it," said Thomas Nemecek. Kaleigh added, "It's exciting because I could set a Guinness World Record."
Thomas said he had no trouble using a plastic tent stake to turn up the dirt and plant the bulb. Kaleigh, on the other hand, said she had to dig in with her bare hands to plant her five bulbs.
The event had the feel of an episode of HGTV combined with an Olympic relay race with the George Washington students cheering each other on, knowing if they completed their planting in time, their accomplishment would be marked in history.
The current record was set when 850 people simultaneously planted flowers in the United Kingdom in 2014.
Organizers of the Lee County event said it could be a few months before this week's effort makes the record books because Guinness World Records needs to review the documentation and videos of the event.