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Students Try for Reel Big Record

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Robin Lownsbury, a physical education teacher at Tuckahoe, had figured that teaching her first- through fifth-graders the Virginia Reel would be a perfect way to tie the theme and the event together. A record attempt seemed a great way to make it fun.

So she submitted the idea to Guinness World Records' headquarters in London. A Scottish group from Toronto gathered 512 people to dance a Scottish dance at the same time. Lownsbury is sure she'll have more than that. Once she's tallied the numbers, she'll send them to Guinness and wait for a record to be granted.

At least 500 kids are lined up and ready to dance — some fidgeting, some still. Partners face off; sets of 10 and 12 form.

Shrills from kids' voices sound as if a million birds are chirping.

In order for the record to be official, Lownsbury had to find people of "some social standing" to observe the event and verify it happened. As luck would have it, she found five, including Bernie Henderson, deputy secretary of the commonwealth. All five are here.

The American flag is presented and raised. So are colored flags that represent teams. The national anthem is sung. Then the kids with the flags run with them around the blacktop. The green flag gets caught in the fence, as does the yellow. Laughter erupts.

At last the dance begins. Proud-looking parents perch themselves anywhere they can to see. Most wear sunglasses and carry cameras.

Instantly, the familiar square-dance music stirs clapping from the spectators.

The entire blacktop moves in a kind of spasmodic color-coated unison.

"Raise the arch. Raise it high. Everybody forward and everybody back. Right elbow; left elbow. Two-hand swing and around you go. Everybody do si do."

Five hundred fifty-eight teachers and kids dance the Virginia Reel today. One parent puts it precisely: "I've never seen anything like this in my life!"

— Brandon Walters

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