It will take 500 people, half an acre of land and a "pervert patrol" armed with marshmallow guns, but Nicole Brown-Smedley plans to smash the Guinness world record for most people spooning - a gesture she hopes will create universal harmony or at least a good snuggle.
Normally, the act of spooning is reserved for couples cuddling by the fireside or soldiers freezing on the battlefield. But this attempt will play out in the middle of a four-day music festival outside Mebane, where Brown-Smedley, 26, and cohort Johnsie Hingley, 27, will encourage the spectators to lie down on the grass and form an enormous human spiral, pressed front-to-back like slices of bread.
"The act of spooning, especially in this context, says, 'I don't know you, but I trust you at my back,' said Brown-Smedley of Jacksonville. "It will make people feel connected."
Along with group hugs, spooning joins a list of intimate acts that are increasingly popular in large crowds, especially on college campuses.
Last year, 145 students at Notre Dame University lay side-to-side on the South Quad, shattering an old mark of 93.
Then in June, Carleton College in Minnesota boasted a human spoon train of 529 people, though it's not clear whether the record keepers in London ever got wind of the feat.
When Hingley, a graduate student at N.C. State University, wrote to Guinness of their own spooning plans, she received official word that the record of 432 belonged to the Elof Lindälvs gymnasium in Kungsbacka, Sweden.
"Those Swedes, man," Hingley said this week. "We're taking them down."
The idea came to Hingley and Brown-Smedley at a smaller music festival last October, when a fellow concert-goer forgot to bring fall clothing to accompany the good vibes. Spooning together, warm and affectionate, they thought, why not spread the love?
With maybe more than 1,000 people expected at The Getdown - a reggae, funk and jam- band marathon set on 50 acres of private Alamance County land - the spooners could stretch longer than a conga line.
"You can make history lying down," Hingley said. "That's our motto."
But spooning hasn't always been so well regarded by polite society. Innocent by today's standards, the act got a Pennsylvania couple arrested on an Atlantic City beach in 1904, according to the New York Times.
"Mayor Stoy, encouraged by his anti-spooning rule, has instructed the beach police to keep all scantily clad bathers off the strand," read the newspaper's account.
But there will be no tomfoolery at the Mebane record attempt. Shirt, and shoes required. Hands above the waist. All children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
To enforce propriety, a squad of guards will watch the crowd for signs of arousal, shooting marshmallows at them, if necessary, through guns fashioned from PVC pipe.
The spooning area will be fenced; each participant will present a ticket stub; and signs around the area will announce the rules.
Once everyone is in place, the spooners must hold the spiral together for at least five minutes, long enough to be photographed. After that, do whatever nature suggests.
Staff researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.
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