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Chalking it up to togetherness

Caledonia — Caledonia High School junior Holly Barker’s hobbies include dance, volunteering for the Van Andel Institute and researching world records to break. 

With the help of her spirited mom, Audrey Barker, and best friends, fellow juniors Kloey Brown and Kiana Haywood, Holly set out to break the Guinness World Record for the largest display of chalk pavement art.

“The idea started with me and my friends talking with my mom about different world records we could try and beat,” Holly explained. “We looked for one that was COVID-safe so we could bring the community together.” 

Superintendent Dederick Martin contributed his chalk artistry to help try to break the record (courtesy)

The current world record for the largest display of chalk pavement art is 944 drawings, set in Germany on Sept. 19, 2019.

Even with the threat of heavy rain, the Something to Celebrate event brought in more than 1,000 people on the morning of Aug. 6 to attempt to surpass the standing record. Even Caledonia Superintendent Dedrick Martin showed up to contribute his chalk art skills. 

Barker said the group was well on its way by 11:30 a.m. with more than 419 drawings, but the rain eventually came down and took the chalk art with it. 

While the weather may have prevented the event from breaking the record, the girls made the best of it.

“… it rained and we danced in it,” Barker said. “We brought people together during a time when we’re all divided and that’s what really matters.” 

Kloey added, “It was a way for people to get together when we couldn’t get together last year, and we had so much fun planning the whole thing.”

Kloey Brown and Holly Barker outside of the Caledonia branch of Kent District Library

Building Real-life Skills

Barker said the process of attempting to break a world record involves an application, meeting all guidelines and requirements, having witnesses present and providing evidence. 

“It’s important for students to connect what they are learning in school to issues that actually matter in real life,” Martin said. “Expanding their worldview helps them to develop empathy and leadership skills that can have a positive impact on our world. These three students exemplify our goal in becoming agile, critical learners and engaged in their community.” 

 “We officially applied to try and break the record in July 2020 and celebrated by having a dance party in my driveway,” Holly said. “We even pulled an all-nighter to color my entire driveway in chalk.” 

The girls worked together to create an event website, posters and flyers to share with local businesses and help spread the word to the community. 

Barker also used her connections as a librarian at Kent District Library’s Caledonia branch to secure a donation of 1,600 pieces of chalk, and the library coordinated the event with Kiwanis’ Kids Art Day.       

“KDL really wanted to show their support and remove some barriers to help make event participation equitable,” Barker explained. “By supplying the ‘commercially produced’ chalk we needed to qualify for the record, it made it easy for people to show up and not worry about buying their own chalk.”  

Holly and her mom reflected on their favorite memories from the day spent drawing with chalk at the library. 

“Having all my friends and family together was so much fun and we brought the community together, which was the real goal,” Holly said. “Making the signs with Kloey and Kianna was fun and I loved seeing everyone excited for the event.” 

Because she loves a good, weird challenge, Holly has already been approved by Guinness World Records to try and break the record next for the largest awareness ribbon, with full support from her mom and friends.  

“I loved watching these kids take on this project and run with it,” Barker said. “Everyone was happy and our volunteers were amazing. These teenagers can really get stuff done when they use their powers for good instead of evil.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN. Read Alexis' full bio

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