Upholding a Tradition

by Erin Dahl,

  • Red Light Green Light
  • Red Light Green Light

Willamette attempts to set world record — for second time — in Red Light/Green Light on Aug. 28.

For Bryan Schmidt, the number 68 holds special significance.

It isn’t tied to a date or a sports jersey, a biblical passage or a bank account balance. Rather, it’s the number of people who helped knock Willamette University out of the Guinness Book of Word Records.

In August 2013, Willamette hosted the world’s largest game of Red Light/Green Light on the Quad — an event that drew 1,068 students, faculty, staff and alumni.
But in Phoenix, Arizona, this past winter the NFL used the same game to encourage schoolchildren to stay physically active — and attracted 1,136 participants.

“They set an achievable bar for us to break the record again,” says Schmidt, the university’s director of Campus Recreation. “It’s attainable.”

On Aug. 28, Willamette hopes to regain its title. The activity will begin at 5 p.m. on the Quad, with musical entertainment beforehand. President Steve Thorsett will call the game, and David Douglass, dean of Campus Life, will serve as the master of ceremonies.

In addition to a trophy, the winner — and the winner’s guest — will enjoy a catered lunch with President Thorsett in his office.

“Breaking the record is the cherry on top of the sundae,” Schmidt says. “This is our opportunity to do something simple and fun as a Willamette community.”

Celebrating Community

Schmidt and Becca Brownlee ’16 co-organized the first Red Light/Green Light game to bring diverse groups of people together to celebrate the start of a new academic year.

They chose Red Light/Green Light because the rules are simple and players need no special skills. But sticking to regulations set by Guinness World Records proved more challenging.

Schmidt and Brownlee had to create a restricted game-playing area monitored by volunteers, find one observer — not affiliated with Willamette — for every 50 participants, and submit time-stamped video footage showing multiple angles of the game.

This time, Brownlee knows what to expect.

“This record found a home at Willamette two years ago and it’s time to bring it back,” she says. “We have a tradition to uphold.”

Rules of the Game

Thorsett will once again serve as the game’s stoplight. When he calls “green light,” players will race away from the starting line. When he calls “red light,” they have to stop. If not, they go back to the start.

The first person to cross the finish line is declared the winner. Julian Haley ’16 won the game two years ago. As part of his reward, he got to write his name in the cupola in Waller Hall.

For the most part, Schmidt and Brownlee plan to follow the same procedures as before. Participants will receive a numbered wristband, and, once they step foot on the Quad, can’t leave until the game is over. They can also sign a banner to help commemorate the event.

If the university breaks the record again, Guinness is expected to make the official announcement by winter. Although she hopes Willamette succeeds, Brownlee says what matters most is doing something unique and fun as a community.

“In the minutes after we broke the record two years ago, I remember hearing students call their parents and friends to say, ‘I’m a world record holder!’” Brownlee says.

“If we all come together on Aug. 28, we’ll be able to make those phone calls again. We want every Bearcat to hold a piece of this record.”