By RYAN SATKOWIAK
When Philip Robertson was a young boy in New Alresford, Hampshire, England, he looked forward to getting the newest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records every Christmas.
It was the first thing he read every morning and the last thing he put down every night. Robertson said he was fascinated by everything that went into the book.
So, five years ago, when an opportunity arose to work for the company that occupied so much of his time as a child, he jumped at it.
“It’s exhilarating, really,” said Robertson, who was at the Flag City BalloonFest in Findlay on Saturday to judge an attempt to break the world record for most glow sticks lit at one time.
The Saturday night attempt was organized by the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Hancock County. Visitors to the balloon festival were asked to simultaneously break a glow stick for the group’s “I Don’t Give a Snap About Stigma” campaign. The campaign seeks to generate mental health awareness and to reduce stigma associated with mental illness.
More than 3,000 people participated in the attempt to set the record, according to Jamie Franks, event coordinator. That would have been more than enough to set the record, but because of logistical reasons, it will not be recorded by Guinness, she said.
Franks said it was difficult to organize the thousands of participants and the organization faced hurdles such as having an adviser for every 50 people participating.
But she said the attempt was still a “huge success” in raising awareness for the group.
The record remains at 836, which was set in Los Angeles on Nov. 15, 2013.
Robertson has seen much of the country since joining the Guinness staff.
“I’ve been lucky enough to travel to 44 U.S. states and most Canadian provinces. Every single one of these record attempts takes place somewhere that is so unique, and Findlay is no different,” Robertson said.
Robertson said he averages about four trips per month to witness record attempts, though some months are busier than others. The attempts take him all around the globe, from small towns to big cities to foreign countries.
He’s witnessed hundreds of record-breaking attempts, ranging from events that require judgment calls, like Saturday night’s glow stick attempt, to things a little more cut-and-dried, like the world’s tallest man.
“That’s my favorite iconic record because it’s one of those records that always stands out,” Robertson said of meeting 8-foot-3-inch Sultan Kosen of Turkey in 2011. “Just understanding the challenges he goes through on a daily basis was quite interesting. He couldn’t go to the hospital to get his knees checked out because he couldn’t fit into his parents’ car.”
While getting to meet and observe people attempt to break records, both quirky and not, has been something he’s enjoyed doing, it’s not his favorite part of the job. What he loves the most is getting to travel and “see true North America.”
“It’s that I get to understand and see small towns from Georgia, to giant cities all around the country,” he said.
“Just to see the entire breadth and different parts of what make up this pretty special nation. And that’s not something I would’ve had without this job.”