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Drizzle fails to dampen East Aurora carolers' bid for world record

The weather didn't cooperate, but the number looks good.

Maybe, just maybe, the Village of East Aurora will deck its halls with a Guinness World Record.

It's a niche category that the village sought with its annual caroling event Saturday. Call it: Most people caroling in a single venue that happens to be a public outdoor arena.

Needed were a little more than 1,800 singers. The best count so far is 2,307, said the man who decided it would be neat to go for the record, Don Vidler, of Vidler's five-and-dime. He'll know in weeks, or maybe months, whether Guinness certifies the attempt as a record.

Tama Gresco-Sauers of East Aurora follows the words to the carols from a songbook during the Carolcade. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Yes, there were clusters of people just talking among themselves rather than singing. On the periphery, a snowball fight broke out among the younger set. But most people were in full Fa la la la la.

Main Street lights up around the holidays. Film producers searching for that classic Christmas look chose the village last year. So what would it mean if the village could claim this Christmas-season record?

"I think people would be thrilled," Vidler said.

Beyond that, it would show the power of music to bring everyone together, said Mario Marrazzo, a participant who lives in Orchard Park and studies at the State College at Fredonia, where he belongs to a music-based fraternity.

East Aurora has set aside a night for caroling for 44 straight years. Vidler's, as the legend goes, fostered it from humble origins: owner Ed Vidler welcomed in the Brownies and Girl Scouts singing at the front door one winter and decided it would be good to have carolers every year.

Small groups, including some of son Don Vidler’s high school friends, came and sang as the years passed.  Then in 1973, Ed Vidler decided many more carolers would be all the more merrier, and the annual "Carolcade" was born.  Each year, usually on the Saturday before Christmas, Main Street closes in front of the store. Locals and out-of-towners sing the standards with the Salvation Army Brass Band backing them up.

Don Vidler has thought about the record books before. In 2014, he wondered: Is Carolcade the largest and most continuous caroling event in the United States? But in advance of this year's singing, he realized that maybe East Aurora could establish one of the "biggest caroling event" records. After about 12 weeks, Guinness accepted his application to make a go of it.

Vidler learned the title in his category belongs to Waukesha, Wis., where 1,822 people, organized by the Waukesha Downtown Business Association, caroled on Nov. 22, 2013. While there have been bigger gatherings – crowds of more than 10,000 have caroled in stadiums – Waukesha was the place to beat in the single-venue  outdoor category.

Vidler thought the East Aurora locals could top Wisconsin. In nights with nice weather, 2,500 to 3,000 people have crowded Carolcade.

"We've unofficially broken the record the last two years," Vidler said in the run-up to the big night.

Major Tom Applin of the Salvation Army Band warms up his Euphonium on Main Street in East Aurora on Dec. 17. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

There were pages and pages of rules. There must be witness affidavits, a videotaped record and a reliable counting process, which was set up by giving every participant a numbered ticket. Vidler is worried about one "must" that wasn't met to the letter: the establishment of a clearly restricted area, with marked entrances and exits. That way, the decision-makers can be assured large swaths of the crowd didn't drift away mid-event. But Main Street lacked a restricted area on Saturday evening.

Hours before East Aurora's attempt began, carolers in Hollywood, Fla., went for a record at their "Christmas Near the Beach" event. Organizers hoped to claim the broad title of "Most People Caroling." For that, they needed to go door-to-door and perform at 10 spots or more. Some 7,000 people were expected.

The Hollywood organizers didn't return telephone messages from The News asking how they did. But Hollywood had a clear advantage Saturday over East Aurora: Temperatures in the 80s with no rain. Not exactly Jack Frost nipping at your nose.

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