More than 1,400 people took to the Willamette River's east bank near the Hawthorne Bridge Sunday afternoon, clad with floaties, inner-tubes and kayaks to participate in the second annual Big Float to promote recreational use of the city's main body of water.
The event—organized by Will Levenson of Popina Swimwear—included a performance from local artist Violet Isle and an attempt to break the world record for longest floating chain of people, currently set at 550. Levenson said that they had 620 people hand-in-hand at one point, but they couldn't hold on long enough to break the record.
"Everyone was saying we could have done it with a bit more organization, but I really wanted the float to be about fun on the water, just hanging out listening to music," Levenson said. "We're going to try again maybe next summer, and we'll probably break it."
The turnout included politicians such as Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who's running for re-election in November. Fritz served as the official witness for the attempted world record. And both mayoral candidates, Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-Portland) and former commissioner Charlie Hales, also showed up. Hales floated with supporters carrying campaign signs.The float also provided a stage for Dean Codo and his floating kinetic sculpture, "The Fulcrum." He calls it "the world's largest human powered all-terrain amphibious vehicle, in the world—yes, we know it's redundant."
Codo said he built the Fulcrum in 1994 after seeing other kinetic art. "I built it as a vehicle for social change," Codo said. "It takes eight people working together to move it, so it's like an evangelistic mission for me to get people out of their cars or boats to try it."Levenson founded the Big Float to promote the Willamette River as a clean and safe place to swim.
On August 25th, Levenson and others with the Human Access Project will be holding a rock and boulder removal party at Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park near the Hawthorne Bridge. Levenson is pushing a plan to create a downtown beach for recreational use in the "bowl" at the south end of the park.