About 1,200 people attended an event billed as the “World’s Largest Tree Hug” Saturday afternoon at Peaks View Park.
The exact number needed to break the Guinness record for world’s largest tree hug? 4,623.
The overall event — which included a lot more than tree hugging throughout the day — still was a success, said Jennifer Jones, director of Lynchburg Parks and Recreation, which planned the day.
“We didn’t get to break the record today, but we had a great showing of people who came out to help us hug on the trees and to appreciate nature,” she said.
The real goal of the day was to raise awareness of nature conservation and preservation, Jones said.
“This is definitely not the end for us,” Jones said. “This was just a piece of our overall ‘Please Do Hug The Trees’ campaign.”
According to the Lynchburg Parks and Recreation Please Do Hug The Trees website, Saturday’s event at Peaks View Park was a kickoff for the overall campaign, which aims to encourage Lynchburgers to “become enthusiastic tree huggers and conservationists.”
Elizabeth Kennedy, assistant marketing coordinator at Lynchburg Parks and Recreation, said the event started off as an attempt to break the world record, “but turned into a festival situation.”
“We’re really celebrating nature and the outdoors and trying to get people plugged into some kind of environmental involvement,” she said. “And I think we’ve accomplished that with the different things we have set up.”
The event spanned most of Peaks View Park, offering rock climbing, paddle boarding, laser tag, an obstacle course, bubble soccer, face painting, henna art, yoga, live music, food trucks and even music and dances provided by the Monacan Indian Nation.
Monacan Chief Dean Branham said he was happy Lynchburg Parks and Recreation invited his tribe to perform.
“We will just be doing an honor song to honor the ground and everybody here,” he said. “ … We’re the Monacan Indian Nation. We’ve been around here for 400 years or longer; our home is in Amherst County.”
Kaylee Austin, 10, performed a Monacan butterfly dance along with Angel Smith, 11.
“I enjoy dancing and representing my tribe,” Kaylee said. “… I think we should keep helping trees grow so that we have clean air and fresh environment for animals and humans to survive.”
Volunteer Madalyn Sullivan said she came out Saturday to support a love of nature.
“A appreciation of nature is fading in our current times, and these type of events help to remind us of the importance of preserving [nature] and enjoying it together,” Sullivan, 16, said.
Nine-year-old Elana Ordower, dressed in an outfit she had made just for the event, said she was at Peaks View Park to do three things:
“I came to hug a tree and break a Guinness World Record and just have fun,” she said.
Elana said it’s important to hug trees because hugging a tree makes it grow just a bit taller. Her mom, Karin Warren, chair of environmental studies and science at Randolph College, explained the thought.
“We were saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if you loved a tree and that helped it grow better?’”
The main message Elana thought people should take away from the event is it wasn’t just for fun, but also for the trees.
“Nature is very important because without nature, animals wouldn’t be able to eat, and we are technically an animal so, so the whole human race and animal race would be thrown off,” she explained.
“Something I really think you should know is don’t harm nature.
“If there’s a pretty flower, leave it for someone else to enjoy.”