BETHEL — It’s been 15 years and Olympia, the world’s tallest snowperson, has maintained her Guinness World Book of Records title after Riesi, who stood less than 1 meter taller in Irdning, Austria, collapsed.

Caretaker Gerhard Peer and ski-lift manager Erwin Petz of Ski Riesneralm constructed Riesi in 2020 and Guinness declared it to be the new world record holder at 38.04 meters, .83 meters taller than Olympia. Someone standing triumphantly, arm in air, was perched on Riesi’s black stovepipe hat. But soon after it all came crashing down for the Austrians.

At 122 feet, 1 inch, Olympia, the snowwoman built in 2008 in Bethel, holds the record in the Guinness World Book of Records as the tallest snowperson in the world. Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce

Guinness then disqualified Riesi and the crown was triumphantly returned to Olympia and Bethel.

“The whole town, the whole state, the whole everywhere, if you Google it, everything says our record was broken,” Jessie Perkins, executive director of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “You can’t correct the whole internet.”

Perkins found out about the redaction when researcher Alice Jessop of Guinness World Records Ltd. contacted her in November 2021 for a photo of Olympia for its annual book.

“I was astonished,” Perkins said. “It was a head-scratch moment when I went blank on what I was doing.” She asked Jessop for more details about the disqualification of Riesi, but she had none. She just needed her high-resolution photo.

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Perkins asked co-worker Cathy Howe to find out more.

“If it’s in the book, it’s the record,” was the email response from Guinness to Howe.

“No one has ever given us a reason,” Perkins said.

OLYMPIA AND ANGUS

Between the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce building on Cross Street and Parkway Road, two gigantic snowpeople were built by hundreds of volunteers using donated equipment. Angus, King of the Mountain, was built in 1999 in honor of then-Gov. Angus King.

With less fanfare but more snow, Olympia, built in honor of U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, surpassed Angus by 9 feet as Bethel broke its own record. She went up in 2008.

“We decided we wanted Olympia to look less like a lighthouse” and more like a woman. “She had hips,” Robin Zinchuk said of the snowwoman’s wider base. Zinchuk, former director of the chamber, was in charge of both projects with Paula Wheeler, events director helping with Angus.

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Civil engineer Jim Sysko said, “As soon as we put the eyelashes up (16 alpine skis) everybody said, ‘Wow.'”

Both snowpeople had car tire mouths, skidder tire buttons, arms made of 25-foot spruce trees, and fabric hats that were 16 feet (Olympia) and 20 feet (Angus) in diameter made by middle school students.

“Why did we build the snowmen? Because we had snow,” Sysko said.

Riesi did not have giant Maine pine trees for arms or alpine skis as eyelashes. He did have an enormous stovepipe hat that blew off his head in 62 mph winds and needed to be rebuilt. His huge lower half was blown in by snow canons.

“They made a spire of ice and put a hat on top of it and called it a snowman,” Sysko said.

“We’ve got good records on our snowmen,” he said.

Three emails to Petz went unanswered as did emails to the Guinness World Record news department.

Even now, 15 years following Olympia and 23 years after Angus, the chamber still fields snowman queries.

“And every time (Angus and Olympia) make the news for no reason, we get loads of emails from people asking when they can come visit our snowman and snowwoman,” Perkins wrote in an email to Sysko. “I guess there are still some folks out there who don’t know how snow works.”

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