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Bright School third-grade teacher Mary Harbin works with students Nick McKenney and Ashton Higdon, from left to right, as they attempt to break a Guinness record for the "World's Largest Cookie Mosaic" during the school's Centennial celebration in this file photograph from August 2012.
Setting a record is one thing. Seeing it in worldwide print is priceless.
When the 2014 Guinness World Records book is released today, Chattanooga's Bright School will be listed as the record-holder of the largest cookie mosaic.
As part of the school's 100th anniversary celebration, and with an official record adjudicator on hand last September, Bright used 16,390 chocolate, vanilla and banana MoonPies to create a mosaic of the school's logo.
While the record was authenticated at the time -- tripling the old record set with Oreos in China -- its place in the book was no sure thing.
"People assume everything goes into the book," said Pam McKenney, centennial events co-chairwoman, "but it doesn't. It's edited."
In an attempt to give its chances a boost, the school -- through its creative writing classes -- had most of its more than 300 students draw pictures or write letters about the experience. Those letters were put in a binder and, together with a box of the Chattanooga Bakery-made MoonPies, were sent to Guinness.
"They liked that," McKenney said.
No one from Bright School received a Guinness book ahead of the publication, so no one knows exactly how the record reads. But school officials were told by Guinness officials that they are in the book. And today, the school will throw a party to celebrate the arrival of the student-ordered books, said Kim Brown, the school's director of advancement.
"It was very exciting and fun," she said. "We're thrilled to be in the book."
At the beginning of the process, Bright School's centennial planners thought trying to break a world record would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the students.
"We kept wanting to pick something that would be a unique experience," McKenney said, "something they would remember."
When school officials learned Guinness World Records was the most checked-out book in the library, the idea was fully formed. And to further leverage the plan, they wanted to involve a Chattanooga company that also was more than 100 years old. Enter Chattanooga Bakery, which was founded in 1902.
Even with the solid idea, plan for success and application submitted six or seven months before the September event, interest by Guinness was not guaranteed.
"They reject about 80 percent of [applications]," said McKenney.
However, Guinness approved the idea, classified it as an attempt at the world's largest cookie mosaic and sent an adjudicator.
Tony McDaniel, a Bright School parent and coordinator for the build, figured out how many MoonPies of each type would be needed, how big the backing grid needed to be and -- after a student-led test -- when the process had to be started in order to end at a pre-determined time.
A pre-made, pre-colored grid, which showed participants what type of MoonPie would be needed in what place, was cut into pieces, and the pieces were placed on top of cardboard boxes in order to fulfill food hygiene rules, he said.
"It was quite a bit of calculating," said McDaniel, a computational engineering graduate student from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga SimCenter.
The build, which took place in the school's air-conditioned gym to keep the MoonPies from melting, involved students, teachers, several alumni and community members -- about 450 people in all, according to Kim Brown, the school's director of advancement.
The event began on a Friday, continued into the evening and was completed the next day. The resulting mosaic measured 1,351.58 square feet, she said.
Volunteers had to check every row to be sure each Moon Pie touched the four around it, according to authentication rules, said McDaniel.
"With all the ... effort," he said, "we didn't want to mess [the record chance] up," he said.
After the record was authenticated, students took home MoonPies, and the rest were distributed to shelters and community centers, Brown said.
"We were careful not to waste any," she said.
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to my posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...