The "World's Biggest Group Hug" at Electric Forest Was an Epic Failure

The organizers of Electric Forest set their sights this year on breaking the record for the world's largest group hug. This is a real thing, certified by Guinness: 10,554 folks in Ottawa, Ontario held each other in 2010, setting the standard.

Since Electric Forest draws more than 30,000 attendees — and everyone here is already hugging each other already — the organizers roped off a giant field at the Sherwood Court stage and employed a large staff to shepherd people through, not to mention videotape this potentially historic moment. To make it extra super official, two auditors from a Grand Rapids CPA firm called Baker Holtz oversaw things. (Fancy!)

Electric Forest Fans attempt the world's biggest hug.EXPAND
Electric Forest Fans attempt the world's biggest hug.
Ben Westhoff

Folks first started streaming in at 2:30 on Friday afternoon, and the cause seemed to have momentum. The line went on and on. Once inside, people sat down and were entertained by Lafa Taylor, a rapper and producer who has collaborated with Bassnectar. He brought his A-game. He played Phish, performed his own stuff and told jokes ("Hug life!" "I don't Hate U, 'G, I just want to H-U-G" ) with only a few misfires. ("No boners allowed," he insisted, though he added "half chubs" were fine.) Despite the fact that people were again standing in line, having just stood in a long-ass line to get into the festival, the energy level was good, and there was even cause for celebration when Taylor announced the Supreme Court's historic action on gay marriage.

An hour later, at 3:30, Taylor had another announcement: Attendance had reached 3,000. Great news, right? No, wait, this was terrible. They were less of one-third of the way there. "What?" said one of the videographers.

Good effort, all around.EXPAND
Good effort, all around.
Ben Westhoff

At this point, many of the more mathematically-inclined festival-goers in attendance began streaming out. Others who had grown tired of sitting in a shadeless field soon followed. Before long there were more going out than coming in. It quickly became obvious that no world record would be broken.

But, in the spirit of the festival, Taylor did not harsh anyone's mellow by announcing this. He went ahead and told everyone to have the big hug anyway. And so, the large-but-not-historically-large-crowd stood in lines, interlocked arms, and hugged so tightly that they bent over. It was a pretty sweet little moment.

And then everyone was dismissed. Most were none the wiser that, when it comes to group hugs, Canadians totally kick our ass.

Still a pretty big hug.EXPAND
Still a pretty big hug.
Ben Westhoff

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