Maine still holds the world record for the tallest snowman
More than a few Guinness World Records have been verified in Maine.
For example, in 2014 at Brunswick High School, Zachary Miller set a record for the fastest one-mile run while wearing flippers. In 2015, Michael Diggins set a record in his hometown of Scarborough for the most husked corn on the cob in one minute – he managed 13.
In 2018 and again in 2021, the Northern Maine Ice Busters carved the world’s largest rotating ice carousel, a 27-acre, 1,234-diameter disk at Long Lake in St. Agatha. It lost the title to a Minnesota team in 2022, but the group will look to retake it in April.
But of these verified Maine records, one stands — literally — head and shoulders above the rest. Residents of the town of Bethel built not one, but two snow sculptures that Guinness recognized as the world’s tallest snowmen.
It’s an accomplishment that hasn’t officially been surpassed — and with climate change affecting the amount of snow Maine gets and how early winter comes, it may not be something anyone in the state can realistically do again.
The two Snow People were built in 1999 and 2008, respectively, and named after two Maine politicians. Angus, King of the Mountain was created in 1999 and named after the then governor of Maine, now US Senator Angus King. Nine years later, in 2008, Olympia SnowWoman, named after the former US Senator, came to frosty life in the shadow of the Sunday River Ski Resort.
The Bethel Chamber of Commerce orchestrated the effort to create both snowmen by getting Sunday River to craft the raw material with his snow machines. Local engineer Jim Sysko oversaw the project to ensure it was structurally sound and safe for people to climb on.
For snowman Angus, a crane shoveled huge buckets of snow that had been stockpiled for weeks before. Volunteers were then lifted to the top of the hill to pound the snow into a compacted platform, held in place by a metal belt, until the structure was solid enough to be removed. They repeated the process, each mound getting a little smaller as the height increased.
It was freestanding, held together by the immense pressure of the snow.
Angus reached a height of 113 feet, 7 inches tall, beating the tallest snowman record held by a group in Japan at 96 feet.
In 1999, not to be satisfied with the record they had broken nine years earlier, the Bethel Chamber and other volunteers decided to build an even bigger snowman. The chamber organized the project again, and engineer Sysko was again put in charge of supervising the construction.
Snow Woman Olympia was created in February 2008 over the course of a month, reportedly using 13 million pounds of snow and a similar process to Angus’ creation. When the volunteers were finished, Olympia was 37.21 meters (122 ft, 1 in) tall and 125 ft in diameter at the base.
As with Angus, local school children and other volunteers made her 48ft wide fleece hat, and her 8ft carrot nose was made from chicken wire and cheesecloth.
According to Guinness, Olympia wore a 130-foot scarf, a 6-foot-6-inch necklace with a snowflake pendant, and had three 5-foot truck tires for buttons. Her lips were made of car tires, her arms were made of two 30-foot tall spruce trees, and her eyelashes were made of eight pairs of skis.
It was only a few feet smaller than the Statue of Liberty.
There were contenders for the crown. In February 2020, residents of Donnersbachwald, Austria, built a giant snowman named Riesi that reportedly reached 38.04 meters or 124.8 feet — about 2 feet and 7 inches taller than Bethel’s. Guinness did not verify this record, and the Bethel Chamber of Commerce was later told that Austria was disqualified.
As of 2023, Bethel’s record for the world’s tallest snowman stands at Guinness.
Both Snowmen stood well into the summer season, with Angus slowly melting until he was little more than a puddle on June 10, 1999, and Olympia crumbling over the course of nearly five months until she too succumbed to the elements on July 30, 2008 .
So far no one but the folks in Austria has tried to break Bethel’s record. It’ll be hard to beat – don’t underestimate the determination and community spirit of a small Maine town in the dead of winter.