Jaime Lyn Gonzales wants to host a community dinner in downtown Verrado, Arizona. She wants every guest to bring some kind of food item. She wants participants to help celebrate neighborly living in this quaint Buckeye suburb.
She also wants it to be the largest potluck dinner in human history.
“People in Verrado like to do things first-class,” Gonzales says with a laugh. “Go big or go home. If you’re going to do a community potluck, why don’t we do something that people will talk about?”
Gonzales is senior community engagement manager for the nonprofit group Verrado Assembly. She grew up in Glendale, but she has called Verrado home for 12 years.
The idea of a potluck dinner makes sense in Verrado, a massive suburb about 25 miles west of Phoenix, a stone’s throw from the White Tank Mountains. Verrado is a planned development with a “new urban” feel, boasting walkable streets and integrated zoning. The town will host this enormous potluck on Verrado’s center, a tree-lined park surrounded by shops and municipal buildings.
“We have the quintessential main street,” Gonzales says. “It’s been an iconic center of the community. We were built on small-town charm.”
At its heart, the potluck is a chance to raise money for 20 local nonprofits, ranging from the Verrado Elementary School to United Blood Services. October 22 is also Make a Difference Day, and organizers planned the event to celebrate this charity-driven holiday.
But Gonzales and her team are serious about breaking the Guinness World Record for largest potluck. Until recently, the record-holder was an Arizona church, but not long ago a church in Alberta, Canada, snatched the title with 1,559 participants. Gonzales is hoping that upward of 2,000 people will show up for dinner in Verrado. Every single visitor must bring some kind of dish, whether it’s a homemade salmon casserole or a jug of Sunny Delight.
A representative from the Guinness World Records will attend the event to verify its final tally. In order to reach their goal, all participants must remain within the enclosed dining grounds for 30 minutes. If they succeed in attracting 1,560 diners, the Guinness representative will award Verrado with an official World Record certificate that same afternoon.
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Meanwhile, downtown Verrado will host live music, a petting zoo, and an inflatable obstacle course. Such an enormous dinner will produce cubic tons of leftovers, but guests are responsible for bringing their own contributions home. Anything that remains will be collected by Recycle City, a Phoenix-based farm and composting service.
“Breaking the record is really just a cherry on top of the event,” Gonzales says. “But we want everybody to come. We want you to break bread. You can always say you were a part of making history with us.”
The potluck takes place Saturday, October 22, in downtown Verrado at 11 a.m. and is free to attend. For more information, visit Verrado’s website.