OSWEGO, NY – Today’s Al Roker, visited SUNY Oswego today (March 31), his alma mater, for the final day of Rokerthon 3.
He helped students set a new Guinness World Record for the most amount of people doing a conga line on ice.
The group easily skated past the old record; performing the longest conga line on ice in the Marano Campus Center arena during a live broadcast of NBC’s Today show, hosted by Roker ’76.
“We are truly thankful and proud of the participation of so many from our campus community,” President Deborah F. Stanley said. “Our students seized the opportunity because they had pride we could do it and a fantastic team contributed intensive planning, collaboration and coordination. Today, we showed the nation that when SUNY Oswego sets out to accomplish something, we come together to get the job done!”
Oswego’s newest world record holders skated in formation for five minutes before a crowd of hundreds of campus and community members to Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga.” They topped the former record of 353 set on Nov. 12, 2013, at the Ice Rink Canary Wharf in the United Kingdom.
“To be honest, I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t pick any of the schools or anything. But I’m very excited that they said let’s end up in Oswego,” Roker told Oswego County Today’s Steve Yablonski, ‘77. “I’m thrilled to be back. Any time you can come back to Oswego, and do it on your company’s dime, is even better.”
He added that he’s already stopped at Oswego Sub Shop for one of his signature subs.
“I’ll probably stop on the way out,” he joked.
“I’m not actually doing the Conga line, I’m just sort of facilitating it,” he explained. “To end up Rokerthon in your alma mater, that’s a good thing.”
The record-shattering line of dancing skaters concluded a five-day series of new world records on American college campuses – all part of “Rokerthon 3: Storming into the Madness,” led by Today co-anchor Roker.
“This is fantastic,” he said of the huge crowd who turned out early to see him at the ice rink.
“They could have had an iguana if it was going to get them on TV. It’s nice to think they’re doing it for me, but they all want to be on TV.”
“This is actually my third time seeing Al Roker on campus. It’s still pretty exciting. I’m really hoping that we’re able to break the world record. It’s something I’ll remember for ever if we can ever do it,” said Krystal Cole, one of the student skaters. “This is something for everyone on campus. I think that’s what makes it so exciting. I had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to drag myself over here. It’s totally worth it.”
Cole and the 600+ participants only had one rehearsal on Wednesday night to practice as a group on the ice, but their Oswego pride carried them through, adding another accomplishment to their resumes – Guinness World Record holders.
Just before 8 a.m., the skaters passed through turnstiles and swiped college IDs as adjudicators from Guinness also counted each skater as he or she entered the ice.
Ten referees, stationed throughout the arena, monitored skaters to ensure each one accurately performed the familiar conga step while their hands were connected to the waist of the skater in front and that they didn’t come into contact with the sideboards of the rink.
“There were 20 deductions, those were people who either broke the line or touched the boards (along the side of the rink). For a world record on ice, not bad!” said Michael Empric an adjudicator for Guinness World Records in New York City. “So the total count was 593. Coming to Oswego I think the energy was through the roof, not only because the attempt was so appropriate to the community but Al is an alumnus – he was here, everyone was out to see Al and really try to break the record in his honor. They did a great job.”
Empric and Roker presented the record to President Stanley and senior broadcasting major Justin Dobrow during the live broadcast of Today.
President Stanley said she is proud of all the students, faculty, staff, fans and all of the performing students that assisted with Friday’s event.
“They put in so much time and effort. They pulled together and got things done in a short period of time. I was never in doubt,” she said following the record-breaking event. “This gives us a lot of exposure. We are great already, but we don’t want to hide our light under a basket. We want any opportunity we can to show our students in the best way possible.”
One lucky student was rewarded with the first-ever Rokerthon PurePoint Financial Scholarship as part of the TODAY Show’s third annual Rokerthon.
Showing a commitment to the next generation of savers, PurePoint Financial, the modern way to save, rewarded one lucky SUNY Oswego student a $5,000 contribution to his/her education.
The sponsor (PurePoint Financial) is giving away a scholarship at each school and the school does a matching scholarship, Roker said.
SUNY Oswego was one of five colleges — the universities of Tennessee, Oklahoma, Marquette and Northern Michigan were the others — selected to participate in Rokerthon 3 based on a video student submission, led by Dobrow, the general manager of Oswego’s student-run TV station WTOP.
The college had less than a month — working around a spring break — to organize the ice conga line, which included finding enough adult ice skates to equip all of the students.
Nearby SUNY siblings Cortland and Morrisville were able to loan their skates to Oswego.
Roker, who generously and often mentions his alma mater on the Today show, last appeared at SUNY Oswego on Oct. 16, 2014.
Appearing live on Today, his presence helped give a big boost to the college, its Lewis B. O’Donnell Media Summit and the public launch of Oswego’s ultimately successful “With Passion and Purpose” fundraising campaign.
Some people may take the Oswego River and lake Ontario for granted, Roker noted.
“But every time I see it, I really am blown away by its beauty. Whether the weather is lousy or it’s a beautiful day, to be able to sit out on The Loop on a warm summer day and watch the sun go down is still one of the most sublime pleasures I’ve ever experienced,” he said.
“With apps and everything like that, I think people still want context. It’s the same with sports. You can get the scores and everything off an app. People want context – it’s part of our service of helping people understand what’s going on not just what’s happening but understand why,” Roker said. “Just being here is important. That’s a lesson for today. So many of us are living through our phones. Stop looking at the screen and look at what’s around you.”
(SUNY Oswego provided some information for this report)