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1,632 ATV riders break world record on North Shore

SILVER BAY -- Wearing a thin spray of mud and wide smiles, 11-year-old friends Dawkin Erceg and Sam Brickley rode their Polaris ATVs into the record books Saturday.

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SILVER BAY -- Wearing a thin spray of mud and wide smiles, 11-year-old friends Dawkin Erceg and Sam Brickley rode their Polaris ATVs into the record books Saturday.

The Duluth boys were part of 1,632 ATV riders in an unofficial breaking of the world record for the longest ATV parade as they rode on a five-mile trip through the streets of this small town along the North Shore.

After coming 55 machines short in its first attempt last June, the Silver Bay parade broke the previous best of 1,138 set by the Harland County Ridge Runners in rural Kentucky in 2006.

Parade organizer Les Schermerhorn announced the tally Saturday night to a capacity crowd at the Union Hall in Silver Bay.

"I said, 'One. Six. Three. Two.' And the roof went off the union hall," she said.

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To meet the Guinness Book of World Records standards, the Silver Bay parade organizers needed to film the parade at the beginning, middle and end of the route to verify their claimed totals. The footage will be sent to London, where Guinness officials will judge the race's validity and rule on the parade in the next couple months, Schermer­horn said. The final count must be all ATVs, not three-wheelers or side-by-sides.

If the Silver Bay parade makes its way into the Guinness Book of World Records, competition from the same bunch in Kentucky as well as Hurley, Wis., and Wyoming will probably challenge the new mark, Schermerhorn said.

"If we break it, Kentucky will come after us, and that's a good thing," said Schermerhorn of the All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota, which sponsored the event. "It's a competition."

The competitive spirit was often subdued Saturday as the event turned into a joy ride. Many riders brought their dogs, children and stuffed animals along for the leisurely cruise. One woman tossed out Mardi Gras beads as if it were Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, while another sported fake pig tails pinned to her helmet. Many riders waved American, pirate, "We B Wheelin'," Finnish and Norwegian flags, while others adorned their muddy machines with pinwheels and balloons.

The pace varied from idling to gridlock to infrequent strolling. When the pace quickened, one man shouted, "I was in second gear!"

The apparent record-setting effort was feasible with the participation of Silver Bay natives such as Jean and Robert McCurdy. The elderly couple said they wished they could have ridden last year, but their red, white and blue Honda ATVs were at their cabin in Isabella.

"We had to be in it this year, especially when they didn't get it [last year]," Jean McCurdy said.

Mary and Tim Posch brought themselves and their five children more than 200 miles from Royalton, Minn., north of St. Cloud, to Silver Bay to be part of the feat.

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"We're here because we love four-wheelin'," said Mary Posch, who rode the route with her 2-year-old daughter, Haley, in her lap.

Ron and Kathy Sluka of Duluth, who were part of the 2008 attempt, had three generations of their family represented in the parade Saturday.

"Silver Bay really opened their doors this year," Ron Sluka said. "It has been really great."

The gathering in Silver Bay also gave the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources an opportunity to promote safety and stewardship on the statewide trails.

Leland Owens, recreational vehicle coordinator for the DNR, was using the event as a recruiting tool. He wanted to increase participation in the volunteer trail ambassador program so that the riders remain safe and the trails remain in good condition.

"Without them, we wouldn't have a lot of attention on ATV safety," Owens said.

Last year's failed attempt had organizers more committed this year with increased attention on paid advertising and word of mouth, Schermerhorn said.

"There are two ways to look at it," she said of last year's parade. "We went, 'Rats.' But it was fun to get everybody together. I can't say I wasn't disappointed. I worked really hard last year.

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"[This year,] we had people bombard their buddies and say, 'You have to do this.' We wanted to walk away [Saturday] with a smile on our faces."

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