Couple part of largest human letter Q ever
Quartzsite has fewer than 4,000 residents during the summer months, when temperatures average 100 plus degrees, but thousands of snowbirds and rock hounds head there for the winter months to enjoy the area and its amenities. Why are so many attracted to Quartzsite? It has spectacular sunrises and sunsets, long winter days and perfect weather, according to some. January and February daytime temperatures average around 70 degrees. Another big draw? Quartzsite is known to be a rock hound’s paradise.
Orville and Delores Staffenhagen, of Rogers, have also spent winters in Quartzsite for the past 22 years. “We knew about Quartzsite because my husband’s brothers, sister and cousin went there,” Delores explained, “and they had gold mine claims. We would visit them, and we just loved it, so we bought a place down there.”
In March 2014, the community of Quartzsite hosted The GRAND Gathering for its residents and many visitors to promote the town and the region. The four-day event, billed to be the Largest Gathering of GRAND parents and Great GRAND Parents, was a joint venture of Quartzsite’s oldest and youngest non-profit organizations, the Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA) and Proud Neighbors of Quartzsite (PNQ). There were pancake breakfasts, live music shows, yard sales, antique car shows, a ‘50s dance, bingo and craft fairs. The final event of the GRAND Gathering was the attempt to set a Guinness world’s record for the world’s largest human letter Q. Organizers had discovered that Q was the only letter that didn’t have a Guinness record.
The McMullens and the Staffenhagens were among the 631 Grands and Great Grands who eagerly gathered at the QIA office building Sunday morning, March 9, to register. Their official badges included their names and the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren they have. Wearing their official sky blue GRAND Gathering T-shirts, the Grands were counted into groups of 50 and escorted into a gated area in the parking lot where they sat in their designated area. Both the McMullens and the Staffenhagens sat at the very top of the letter Q. After the event began, a helicopter did a flyover to take photos of the largest human letter Q.
“Once we were seated, we couldn’t leave the area for 2 ½ hours,” Mary said. “We all wore hats because the sun was hot. The temperature was 82 degrees that day. When the helicopter was minutes away, we were told to stand up, take off our hats and wave to the photographers.”
Delores agreed that it was very exciting for them to be a part of the world record attempt.
Guinness had told the event planners that 501 people would be needed to even be considered for a new world’s record. They had also sent guidelines which included the need for extensive documentation and for independent eyewitnesses from the community to verify the number of participants. A council member and bank manager acted as official witnesses and 12 stewards observed the event. The community’s newspaper, The Desert Messenger, proclaimed the GRAND Gathering weekend a “huge success” and everyone was confident that they had succeeded in achieving a new world’s record.
It was a month later, April 7, that verification from Guinness arrived confirming that they had achieved a new Guinness World Record title for largest human letter Q. All the participants were eligible to get a certificate for being Officially Amazing. Their achievement, largest human letter Q, will be recorded along with other world records, like the oldest woman to climb Mount Everest and the world’s smallest dog.
The GRAND Gathering and becoming world record holders were winter highlights for both the McMullens and the Staffenhagens. But there are other things to do in Quartzsite– besides watching the Weather Channel to see how cold and snowy it is back home in Minnesota.
An inexpensive option to staying at an RV park is for visitors to camp in the open desert on the thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Known as dispersed camping, it’s free for periods of no more than 14 days, which protects the public land and prevents damage to sensitive resources. For longer stays, campers are required to buy a permit, and they must stay in a long-term visitor area (LTVA). It’s quite a sight to see RVs by the thousands dot the flat desert landscape surrounding Quartzsite during the busy winter months.
There are hundreds of miles of scenic desert and mountain trails for ATV riders to explore. The McMullens enjoy ATV riding in the mountains. “We wear masks to keep the dust out of our noses and mouth,” Mary said. They also pan for gold and collect rocks and minerals.
When asked what he likes best about winters in Quartzsite, Jim McMullen easily responded, “The heat. There’s no rain and no clouds, just pure sun and warmth.” When there is rain, under 4 inches a year, it comes in a downpour, and it’s brief. Delores Staffenhagen agreed that the weather is a big plus. “We’ve seen a lot of changes in the 20 years we’ve spent winters there. We liked it best when it was smaller and quieter.”
It’s dry and dusty in the desert, especially with all the traffic on the road, but the McMullens and Staffenhagens have not experienced the huge dust storms that have rolled through Phoenix, reducing visibility, knocking out power and leaving a coating of dirt and grime behind.
Jim dismissed the whole idea that, as snowbirds, he and his wife may have missed Minnesota’s winter weather. “We didn’t leave for Arizona until after Christmas,” he said, “and we were home in early April, so we didn’t miss all the snow and cold.” And, if the Old Farmer’s Almanac predictions come true, the McMullens and Staffenhagens will, again, see a little winter before the New Year, and before heading south to sunshine and warmth.