World record has photographer seeing red
July 27, 2010
By Laura Geggel
World record holders often display some type of quirky talent, and the redheads gathering in Sammamish were no exception.
After all, it is an innate talent to carry two copies of a recessive gene on chromosome 16. These genes cause a change in the MC1R protein, which regulates skin and hair color.
“I love being a redhead,” Jennifer Phillips, of Mukilteo, said. “It’s fun to see everyone together at one time.”
Phillips and 900 other natural redheads convened at Skyline High School’s football field July 17 to set a Guinness World Record of the most redheads photographed in one location. So many redheads participated that they smashed the current record of 250 by more than threefold.
Sammamish photographer Anne Lindsay spearheaded the event. Her daughter, husband and dog have red hair, and she joined the bandwagon with a handy bottle of hair dye.
Before she started shooting in color, “I always felt guilty about photographing redheads in black and white,” Lindsay said. “There is something extra special about redheads.”
Recently, she began working on a book about redheads and their stories. She would visit shopping malls during Christmas and scout out redheads, hand them her card and tell them about her project.
When she learned about Redhead Day in the Netherlands, she aspired to do something similar, and contacted Guinness World Records with her idea. All participating redheads had to prove they were naturally red by submitting a childhood and present-day photo of themselves. People who dyed their hair red, even if they were natural redheads, were not allowed on the field during the picture.
“I was expecting maybe 700,” Lindsay said, awed at the redheaded response.
The redheads were impressed, too. Many came to help set a world record, and others registered to meet their brethren.
Rebecca McKanna, a nurse from Mercer Island, said she told all of her redheaded patients about the world record event.
“I’m the only redhead in the family and any redhead I meet I have a connection with,” McKanna said.
A number of redheads shared their nicknames, including Red, Rusty, Ginger and Ginga Ninja. C.J. Rosenbalm said his three redheaded brothers called him Big Red. The Rosenbalm family extended their visit from Oregon so they could participate in the world record.
Their brunette mother said people used to come up to her sons when they were young and pet their heads. When told she had to sit in the bleachers during the photo, Beverly Rosenbalm told her sons to hold on a minute.
“Wait, I need to sunscreen them,” she said.
Ginsy Travers said she had traveled all day by bus from Olympia so she could participate in the event.
“My stepaunt gave me a redheaded book when I was little,” Travers said. “I felt it was appropriate to continue this redhead appreciation and love and to see all of the different shades of red hair,” including auburn, copper and strawberry blonde.
Not everyone had happy memories of growing up redheaded.
Vanessa VillaVicencio de Suter, of Shoreline, came with her husband and two sons — all of whom are redheaded. VillaVicencio de Suter grew up in Puerto Rico, where redheads are rare.
“They called me contaminated, and ‘bruja’ witch,” she remembered.
It wasn’t until adulthood that she embraced her red tresses. When people see her redheaded family, they say “Oh, you must be the Weasleys,” she said, naming the famously redheaded family from the Harry Potter series.
Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend spoke at the event, reminding the redheads about superstitions of vampires and werewolves associated with them. Still, “In Sammamish, we will not tolerate any discrimination against redheads, not even the non-natural ones,” he said. “Not even the use of the term ginger will be tolerated.”
Gerend announced July 17, 2010, as Redhead Day in Sammamish and Sammamish City Councilman John Curley said he once had red hair and felt like a kindred spirit. Singer Ross Hauck sang the redheaded national anthem.
Lindsay said she would donate 50 cents of each person’s $5 registration fee to the Skin Cancer Foundation, because so many redheads get the disease. She also challenged redheads to grow their hair for Locks of Love for a mass redhead hair cutting at the second annual Redheads and More Redheads Day in Sammamish.
Everyone said “red” and cheered when the photo was taken.
“I think we have a Guinness World Record,” Lindsay said, adding later, “I’m exhausted and I’m elated at the same time.”
Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 221, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.