When Teamwork Is the Key to Winning World Records

You've always wanted to get into the Guinness World Records, but you don't want to let your beard grow past your knees, and the thought of eating 50 hot dogs in one sitting gives you the shakes. Sound familiar?

Hope is not lost. Just gather up all your friends and family and all their friends and families and so on and so on, because group feats are a huge part of today's roster of Guinness world records.

How about the record for the largest gathering of people with the same last name? The most champagne bottles being uncorked at the same time? Or the most most bikini-clad women gathered for a single photo shoot? These are but a few of the group records thousands of people have attempted in the last year.


In the first 198-page Guinness Book of World Records released in 1955, there wasn't a single group record that didn't involve a serious endeavor in exploration or professional sports. But under its original editors, Norris and Ross McWhirter, the book soon evolved into a brand: a collection of both the extraordinary and the absurd in human achievement.

In the late 1980s, Norris McWhirter told ABC News that even he was amazed at what people did to get into his record book.

"People put themselves through the most appalling agonies. The lot of them need great stamina," he said. "I found they had one thing in common, and that is they're stubborn — very, very stubborn."

A change of ownership in the mid-'90s resulted in an even more colorful and uninhibited book, and the soon-to-be-published latest edition features around 150 of these stubborn and slightly lunatic group records that appear more like a good excuse for a party: the largest dog wedding ceremony, the most heads shaved in an hour, the largest gathering of Elvis impersonators and the longest conga line.

Gathering Gallaghers

In Ireland recently, in the town of Letterkenny in the county of Donegal, the Gallagher clan held a massive family reunion. They weren't really all from the same family, but all of them were Gallaghers. In Letterkenny there are 2,220 Gallaghers in the phone book. People shop in stores and go to hotels named Gallagher, and get their deliveries from Gallaghers.

Clan members from all parts of the world were invited to take part in a weeklong celebration of, as organizer Adrian Gallagher put it, "all things Gallagher." There were Gallaghers from Australia and New Zealand, from all parts of Europe and the United States. One young woman even traveled all the way from a remote Alaskan village.

"My father was Irish and my mother was Aleut and Russian descent," said Nora Gallagher. "I'm very proud of my Irish heritage, very much so."

The focal point of the gathering was an attempt to set a Guinness world record for the largest same-name gathering — the most people in the same place with the same last name. The previous record had been set by the Jones family in 2006 in Wales when they gathered 1,224 Joneses. The Gallaghers hoped to top that record, but it was not easy.

"I think people like the idea of being in something on a global scale, which this is," Adrian Gallagher said. "I think the world record has added to the gathering."

The rules were clear: Everyone had to register, proving they were Gallaghers by showing a passport or birth certificate. Then they entered a parking lot and stood inside the ropes for a full five minutes. Katie Ford, a Guinness World Records representative who traveled from London to judge the event, began the count with a clicker in hand.

"I didn't want anyone to sneak a look … until I was happy that things had been done as they should," she said.

A Fizzy Feat

The 1,000-year-old town of Delft in the Netherlands was the site of another group record attempt last month. This one involved a potent mix of champagne and enthusiastic college students confident they could beat a record set by university students in Germany. Another group of students from Delft tried a few years ago to beat the record for the most champagne bottles being uncorked at the same time, but they came up short.

"We welcome any new records for publicity," said the mayor of Delft.

But this time the attempt was a popping success. It appears, pending formal recognition, that Delft was able to break the old record of 410 bottles for most champagne corks popped simultaneously, shattering the old record by more than 100. It was a celebratory scene reminiscent of a team locker room after the World Series, except with hundreds more people shaking bottles and spraying champagne in every direction. It's a party the people of Delft won't soon forget.

Group world records have not gone unnoticed by the corporate world. What better way, many think, to get your product noticed than to marry it to a Guinness world record attempt. A record involving thousands of people will certainly pique the interest of local media, and in the age of YouTube, interesting images can be shared by millions of people in a single day.

That was the thought behind Cosmopolitan Magazine Australia's attempt at the largest bikini photo shoot ever. One thousand and ten bikini-clad women gathered seaside at the famed Bondi Beach to pose for the shot that would land them in the Guinness World Records.

The dating Web site Match.com had a similar idea in mind when it asked people to attempt to break the world record for the most people kissing at the same. It shattered a record set recently in the capital of romance: Paris.

And what about the Gallaghers in the northwest of Ireland and their attempt to keep up with and surpass the Joneses of Scotland, was the luck of the Irish with them?

They hit a number of roadblocks the day of the record attempt, but made a valiant effort. The results can be seen Friday on "20/20" at 10 p.m. EDT.