Monday, July 19, 2010

going live - at five

a few quick notes. my CBC radio interview ran friday on information morning and you can listen to it here.

i'm skedded to be on Live at Five tomorrow evening. this will be my first live TV appearance. my friend and fellow pottersfield writer steven laffoley has been on before an advised me to smile, smile, smile, and don't move my hands. people remember what you look like, not what you say, was his wisdom. oh, and 350,000 people will be watching. try not to look nervous.

meanwhile, biggest and best 3 ran in yesterday's herald for a little christmas in july. i am forever grateful to carolann for meeting me in a truro field on a random saturday morning - and for agreeing to wear the christmas hat i'd brought along for photo purposes.

kudos to the herald editors for the heady, too.

Published: 2010-07-18

Wreathed in a record and goin’ for garland

By JON TATTRIE Biggest & Best

Carolann Naugle and I stand on a dusty road next to a farmer’s field with a strange marking.

We met at the Ultramar in Truro and I followed her out here so she could tell me about the giant ring that once stretched around this field.

Today, you can only see a faint circle left on the crop. The rest of the details about the extraordinary events that took place here two years ago are reduced to a trunk full of photographs and paperwork.

It doesn’t add up. I open my notebook and get her to explain it to me again.

"So, why did you build a 251.9-foot (76.7 metre) diameter Christmas wreath here?" I ask.

It’s hot. The dust is in my nostrils. No wind troubles the corn.

"My family thinks I’m crazy," she sighs. "I was obsessed."

It started with ordinary Christmas wreaths. Naugle made them, liked them and started entering contests. She won every major competition she could find. She came second in all of Canada at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. These wreaths were the size of a man. A friend asked her if they were the biggest Christmas wreaths in the world. Naugle checked. They were not.

"When I applied to beat the Guinness record, it came back that I actually had to beat 233 feet (71 metres)," she says. "But it was in my head. I had to do it. I’m just a strange lady."

She tells me she was turning 50. "I had to do something spectacular."

The old record was set in the Netherlands on a Dec. 19. That, my friends, is her birthday. It was on.

It took her 100 days to build the metal frame, which looks like a circular train track. She cut 3.5 tonnes of brush and transported it to the site. The final assembly took a week of intense work.

She stacked the 500 blueberry crates it sits on waist-high, and then realized that was too narrow, so she had to break the stacks into two piles. She now had to bend in half to fit the brush to the vast structure. A cranberry bog got in the way of her first attempt and she had to move the whole bloody thing.

"I wasn’t too pleased," she admits.

A tractor drives past us, kicking up a cloud of dust. Naugle waves to the driver.

The Guinness world record wound up costing her $5,000. She didn’t plan to spend so much, but who wants to blow $2,500 on the world’s most mid-sized Christmas wreath?

"People just didn’t think it was possible," she says. "I’m a person who thinks that all through life, you have to keep striving to do something different. These people that sit at home and drink beer and say they’ve got a boring life — you’ve got to make a life!"

At the grand unveiling, Naugle cried. The Truro-area resident and her family and friends drank a champagne toast. A friend hopped in a plane and took an aerial photograph. She put all the information in the mail, sent it to England, and then forgot about it after her globe-beating feat was certified. The wreath stayed in the field for several months over the summer of 2008, until the frame needed to be returned and Naugle dismantled her masterpiece.

"Do you ever wake up in a cold sweat thinking that somebody has built a 252-foot Christmas wreath?" I ask.

She laughs. "If somebody beat it, I might attempt once more," she warns any would-be wreathers. A note to pretenders to her crown: she has a brown belt in karate.

Naugle’s got her eyes on another Christmas record, also set on her birthday. This year, she’s planning to build the world’s longest Christmas garland. It will stretch for 4.8 glorious kilometres. She’s looking for sponsors.

As we shake hands and prepare to leave, Naugle offers me one more clue. She’s been studying her ancestors. They came from Berkshire, England. I am reminded of a strange circle I once saw in a field just next door to Berkshire. It was called Stonehenge.

"I might be related," she suggests.


Jon Tattrie is a freelance journalist and the author of Black Snow and The Hermit of Africville.


© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited
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