¿Qué Pasa? Festival smashes piñatas world record: ‘Everybody was all smiles’

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Officials with the ¿Qué Pasa? Festival believe they have more than doubled the current world record for the biggest display of piñatas at an event.

The feat happened Saturday during the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's annual Cinco de Mayo celebration along Richmond's Canal Walk.

The event, which celebrates the Commonwealth's diverse Latino community and businesses, featured Latin food, music and entertainment.

In addition, some of Richmond's fleet of canal boats were decked out in homage of the Trajineras flower boats that traverse the canals in Mexico City.

Record-breaking display of piñatas at ¿Qué Pasa? Festival (SOURCE: Dave Parrish Photography)

Record-breaking display of piñatas at ¿Qué Pasa? Festival (SOURCE: Dave Parrish Photography)

Piñatas world record is 'very rigorous process'

Lesli Paige Holmes, a project organizer Virginia Hispanic Foundation, and Allison Schumacher, the Director of Academic Alchemy at VCU Davinci Center, coordinated the piñata project.

Holmes said event organizers documented 1,013 piñatas, which more than doubles the previous Guinness World Record of 504 set in 2008 in Sonora, Mexico.

Holmes explained that two videographers and photographers documented the display before the rain set in.

Additionally, the group has a log containing each piñata since it can cost upwards of $10,000 to bring an official Guinness judging team to an event.

"There is a very rigorous process," Holmes explained. "But you have to provide a lot of evidence."

The group also coordinated "official witnesses," including Anne Holton, former Virginia Secretary of Education and Sen. Tim Kaine's wife, to certify the number of piñatas that Holmes said seemingly "just went on forever."

Majority of 1000-plus piñatas were handmade  

Holmes said more than 70 organizations in the tight-knit Hispanic community from across Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland helped craft the piñatas for the event.

"Even though we're a statewide organization, we have people wanting to get involved everywhere," Holmes said.

Additionally, Holmes said 75-percent of the paper mache creations were homemade.

"It's not easy to make a piñata," Holmes explained. "It was a real undertaking. People had to really put there heart and soul into it."

And 37-percent of the works were created by children from area schools, including Armstrong High School and all of Petersburg City Schools.

Holmes said the project served as a much-needed break from SOL testing and also taught children about community involvement and giving back.

Then many of those children also attended the festival to locate their piñata among the throng of colorful creations.

"This is the best thing we could have done for our kids," Holmes said. "Everybody was all smiles."

Record-breaking display of piñatas at ¿Qué Pasa? Festival (SOURCE: Dave Parrish Photography)

Record-breaking display of piñatas at ¿Qué Pasa? Festival (SOURCE: Dave Parrish Photography)

While one goal of the project was to shatter the world record, there was another purpose: bringing the community together and challenging some people's perception of Hispanic culture.

Holmes was moved not only by the number of schools that took part, but by the other organizations and variety of businesses that created piñatas.

"K95 [a legacy country music radio station] brought a piñata to participate," Holmes said. "Do you realize growing up in Virginia how moving that is?"

Organizers said the diverse display was possible by the community coming together to show "what we are as a city."

"I did a lot of crying yesterday," Holmes said. "It meant so much to so many people."

What happens to the piñatas? 

After some tense moments Sunday morning, the pinatas were relocated to the Chidlren's Museum of Richmond.

Officials said roughly 70-percent of the piñatas survived a brief shower Sunday morning.

"We had a 20-minute downpour," Holmes said. "The weather was stressful."

When it came time to move more than 1,000 piñatas, organizers had to stick with a plan.

"We had to take that risk and everyone knew they won't get them back," Holmes said.

Officials said the paper mache works will be on display at Chidlren's Museum of Richmond for the rest of the month.

"They put them in a warehouse and they're drying," Holmes said. "Teams are going through to doctor them up."

More piñatas next year? 

"You never know," Holmes laughed. "I don't know if we'll attempt this again."

But it was clear that the popularity and bonding experience the new element brought to the celebration, which saw record-attendance, was something the chamber would ponder as plans begin for the 2019 festival.

A big thank you to Dave Parrish Photography for providing the images used in this story.  

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