Some do it quick, with a clap at the end. Others do it down low, swiveling their hips, nice and easy. Either way, at 7:30 p.m. sharp Sunday, it'll be "Come on, baby! Let's do the twist.'' During the Fourth of July celebration at Largo Central Park, the community is invited to join forces to break intoGuinness World Records for having the largest number of people twisting in one place. The city of Largo hopes to break the record of 1,691, which was set on April 30, 2004, in England. Typically, the Fourth of July celebration at Largo Central Park draws more than 20,000 people, so event organizers believe breaking the record is within reach.
"Last year, you could barely find a place to sit in the grass, it was so crowded. There's no doubt we can do this,'' said Rob Mondora, the city of Largo's artistic supervisor who helped with the event's concept.
Why the twist? Why now? Why here?
Because the twist and the city of Largo have something in common. The city's Recreation, Parks and Arts department is turning 50 this year. And, it was also 50 years ago, July 1960, when Chubby Checker released his version of Hank Ballard's song The Twist.
But there's more.
"The twist itself actually started in the Tampa Bay area,'' said Jack Harris, the voice behind the morning show on WFLA-AM 970.
"I learned about the twist starting in Tampa a few years back when a friend showed me liner notes from one of Ballard's albums,'' said Harris, who will be the emcee for the event.
The story goes that Ballard was visiting the Central Avenue district of Tampa around 1957. At the time, the area, near where I-4 is now, was the hub of the African-American community.
"Ballard was in Tampa, and he watched some kids dancing outside of a club. He asked them what they were doing, and they said they were doing the twist. He watched them awhile, and then went inside and started writing the song,'' Harris said.
There's also another local tie-in to the celebration.
"We've got Joey Dee living here,'' Mondora said.
Dee, who followed up Checker's hit with his 1962 songPeppermint Twist, lives in Clearwater. Joey Dee and the Starliters are the headliners for the program.
"Even though it'll be about 100 degrees, we are looking forward to taking the stage in Largo,'' Dee said in a phone interview from New Jersey, where he is on tour. "And as usual, Joey Dee will be wearing his suit and tie, no matter how hot it is.''
When the city-appointed official timekeeper gives the nod, Harris, along with Dee and his band, will start the crowd twisting. The dance must be performed for five minutes, nonstop.
Charla Lucas, events coordinator for the city, has been communicating withGuinness World Records making sure the attempt will be deemed valid.
"The Guinness Book of World Records has many guidelines that must be followed to break a world record,'' she said. "It's a lot of work for five minutes, but it's history in the making."
For those concerned whether they need to do the exact dance steps for Guinness requirements, don't despair.
"The Guinness guidelines for the dance itself says it has to be performed in the traditional manner, and we'll have Tutterow dancers providing instruction after people register,'' Lucas said of the city dance troupe.
Harris, who has been heard over Tampa Bay airwaves for 40 years, is eager to see the record set.
When asked what he expects to see Sunday, he replied, "A lot of elbows and butts. This is going to be great.''
* * *
If you go
The city of Largo Fourth of July Celebration starts at 6 p.m. Sunday at Largo Central Park. The event will feature an attempt to set a Guinness World Records mark for the most people doing the twist in a designated area. The record is 1,691 set in England in 2004.
Here is the event schedule:
6 p.m.: Registration will be held at Shelter 8, and volunteers also will be walking through the crowd to sign up people as well.
6:30 p.m.: Joey Dee and the Starliters.
7:15 p.m.: Jack Harris of WFLA-AM will go over the rules and instructions for the world record attempt.
7:30 p.m.: World record twist attempt with music by Joey Dee and the Starliters.
8:15 p.m.: High Velocity Entertainment.
9 p.m.: Fireworks show
Cost: $3 to participate in the record breaking, but the Fourth of July celebration is free.
Parking: Limited onsite parking is available for $5. Parking also will be available at Largo Middle School and Largo High School.
For more information: Visit largoevents.com.
* * *
The Twist - Did you know?
-The Twist was written by Hank Ballard, who originally recorded it in 1959 with his group, the Midnighters.
-When Ballard first heard the song by Chubby Checker on the radio, he thought it was himself.
-The Twist started a dance craze because it was so easy to do. Even the rhythm-challenged could do the Twist, so kids and adults could do it together.
-The song hit No. 1 in the United States when it was released in the summer of 1960, and again as a re-release in the winter of 1961. It is the only song to hit U.S. No. 1 twice with identical versions.
Condensed from www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1249