The record-shattering parade in Timber Pines achieved more than mere length. It had leprechauns.
SPRING HILL - The line of golf carts was so long that military veterans likened it to tank convoys from their days in the service.
It was so long that, from the air, it resembled an interstate traffic jam that snakes into the distance as far as the eye can see.
But the record-shattering parade of 1,138 golf carts that rolled through the Hernando County retirement community of Timber Pines on Monday achieved more than mere distance.
It had personality.
Leprechaun puppets danced on the roofs of golf carts, and leprechaun dolls rode on the back.
An Easter bunny sat on the hood of one cart, resting comfortably among plastic Easter eggs and a bed of plastic Easter grass.
Golf carts paneled with wood were followed by golf carts shaped like '57 Chevys. One cart, equipped with surround-sound stereo, boomed out polka tunes.
"I think it says these people are very young at heart," said Sally Salkewicz, who would confess only to being over 55, as she pranced around like an Irish princess in a green silk dress. "And that there's nothing we wouldn't do for fun."
Revelry aside, the ambitious Timber Pines folks set a goal for themselves Monday - to claim a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest golf cart parade.
The previous record belonged to the holiday golf cart parade at Sun City Center in Hillsborough County. But that mark of 306 golf carts, set in December, disappeared Monday like a tee shot into the woods.
At Timber Pines, there were so many golf carts that the beginning of the parade met up with the end - even though the parade route was nearly 3 miles long.
"You're kidding me - that's good," said the organizer of Sun City's parade, Jim Cooper, upon hearing what Timber Pines had done. Cooper said it takes nearly two months to get a record certified, so Sun City Center will hold the title at least for that much longer.
But the Timber Pines crowd left little to chance.
To ensure the record would fall, organizers urged their community to register in advance. By last week, that had become pointless: More than 800 people were signed up.
"These people in here are game for pretty much anything," said 69-year-old Lou Beneduce, who organized the parade after reading about Sun City Center's achievement in the paper.
To certify their achievement, Timber Pines brought out the Hernando County sheriff, a pair of county commissioners and a chamber of commerce official. They invited nearly every media outlet in Tampa Bay and stationed counters with clickers at three points along the route.
Yet, it was clear to anyone with a set of eyes or recent satellite imagery that Timber Pines' parade was a record-setter.
It was so long the lead carts had been rolling for 45 minutes before the folks in the back budged an inch. In good humor, the waiting cart riders turned the time into a tailgate party - without the tailgates.
Clowns danced to silly songs. More than a couple of cart drivers sipped Guinness beer - a nod both to the record book and to Ireland, where Guinness is brewed.
"I should have brought some wine or something if I had known it was going to be this long," said Paula Snyder, who brought her Shih-Tzu, HiDee, along for the parade.
Luckily, none of the drivers tanked it into the golf course lakes.
But a few unfortunate souls experienced cart troubles that forced them onto the shoulder and out of the record books, including one poor guy whose cart was decorated like a stock car.
A gated community of some 7,000 people, Timber Pines is known in Hernando County for its intense interest in public affairs. Candidates court votes there; Election Day turnout is typically phenomenal. So some saw the parade as a matter of public duty, of community pride.
But Gary and Marty Robbins, who brought their Norwich terriers Buddy and Buffy along for the ride, said they couldn't resist their chance to grab a piece of the glory.
"If they're going to set a record then I'm going to be a part of it," said Gary, 69. "I don't own too many world records."
- Staff writer Robert King can be reached at 352 848-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org