June 22nd 1969, thanks to media attention from Time and National Geographic, my beloved home town forever became known as the city whose river caught on fire. Now some 44 years later we are trying to do it all over again. (no not really.)
John Gadd, owner of a local print-shop by the name of Hotcards, in an effort to drum up some publicity is attempting to break the Guinness World Record for most amount of people on fire at one time. (They really keep track of that?!?!?!) Gadd and 19 others plan to purposefully light themselves on fire along the banks of the Cuyahoga.
From my local bird-cage liner, the Plain Dealer:
Somewhere deep inside Gadd, the pilot light was lit on a great idea.
It’s the Burning River city. The company’s logo contains a flame. It seemed perfect.
“We didn’t have any trouble finding people. We have people chomping at the bit to burn, which makes me feel a little better about my own sanity,” said Gadd, who was set ablaze in his company parking lot Friday as a demonstration for Cleveland firefighters.
Total costs will be around $50,000. Gadd is paying to have the Cleveland Fire Department crew on hand and the city’s Emergency Medical Service nearby. He’s flying in the Guinness judge. He hopes ticket sales and sponsorships help cut down on overhead and bring in more money for the charity.
It’s an attempt to re-frame history, says Gadd.
“We take a lot of heat in Cleveland as the Burning River City. Yet it became the catalyst for a lot Cleveland pride, including environmental movements, breweries, and a whole lot of ‘Hot in Cleveland’ fame,” he said. “It’s a unique part of our legacy that we can embrace and give new meaning with such a magical spectacle.”
I would never, intentionally set myself on fire, (Actually that’s not true while tryping this I remember accidentally setting my shirt on fire as a teenager playing around with a can if hairspry and a lighter.) but this is actually pretty cool.