Lifestyle

Going to Groundhog Days in Woodstock? Help break a world record while there

Volunteers sought to trace Dick Tracy comic strip after Prognostication

Volunteers are hoping the allure of hot chocolate, a warm building and another Woodstock icon bring people to the Old Courthouse after the Groundhog Day Prognostication.

From 7:30 a.m. to noon Feb. 2, people ages 10 and older are invited to help trace panels of a Dick Tracy comic strip in an ongoing effort to break the Guinness Book of World Records for “Longest Cartoon Strip by a Team.”

“We’ve got to finish it up,” said Sue Stelford of Woodstock, vice president of the Friends of the Old Courthouse, who has spearheaded the effort. “We’ve got about three-quarters of it done, and it’s almost a mile long. We are close.”

About 1,000 people have helped trace 10-foot panels of the strip – representing a continuous narrative – since the effort began in the summer of 2016. Stelford, an art history teacher, scanned the strips from those originally created from 1948 to 1952 by Chester Gould, who lived in Woodstock for 50 years until his death at age 84 in 1985.

The final strip needs to be more than 4,000 feet long to beat a record now held by Lincoln Pierce, the cartoonist behind the popular “Big Nate” cartoon and books.

The effort is both a celebration of Gould and a way to draw attention and funding for the restoration of the Old Courthouse.

“We wanted to engage a lot of people and let them know about the Courthouse and that it needs to be restored,” she said. “It’s a pre-Civil War gem on our Square.”

The Old Courthouse housed a Chester Gould-Dick Tracy Museum from 1991 until the museum’s closure in 2008.

A room of original artwork, photography and memorabilia, including Gould’s drawing board and chair, the museum once drew thousands of visitors from throughout the country before it closed.

It now exists solely online at www.dicktracymuseum.com.

Once the strip is complete, Stelford said she would like to see some of it framed and displayed at the Courthouse, now an arts center, or perhaps put into an exhibit.

In order to submit it for a World Record, the strip will be have to be connected, displayed and filmed. The goal is to lay it out at Emricson Park this summer, have a drone fly over it and film it. It’s now in rolls of paper, and portions of it have yet to be traced.

“We had a real big burst of interest when we first started it, and then it started tapering off,” Stelford said. “We let it sit for awhile. … I’d like to get it done this year. We’re going to do it until we’re done. We’re not going to give up on it.”

For information, find Friends of the Old Courthouse on Facebook or visit www.oldcourthouseartscenter.org.

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