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As volunteers stir, cheese is thrown into a giant pan of cooking potatoes au gratin Saturday afternoon on Main Street in Mount Vernon.

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MOUNT VERNON - It was a recipe for a world record.

Volunteers starting with 15,000 pounds of potatoes, 400 pounds of cheese, 100 pounds of onions and 10 pounds of garlic cooked it all Saturday in an 80-foot-long pan on the revetment and broke the Guinness World Record for largest potatoes au gratin.

When the dish was cooked and certified, it weighed in at 15,000 pounds, Mount Vernon Downtown Association Executive Director Georgiann Dustin said late Saturday afternoon, more exhausted than elated.

"I'm not used to getting up at 6:30 to scrub pans," she said.

The old record of 8,400 pounds was set in July 2010 in the Netherlands.

The record-breaking effort was organized by the Downtown Association as part of the yearlong "Spirit of the Spud" - a series of events to celebrate the local potato industry. All the potatoes for the au gratin came from the 10 farmers who are members of the Skagit Red Potato Growers Association.

The potatoes started cooking at 10 a.m. Two 1,000-gallon propane tanks heated the giant pan. Volunteers worked in shifts stirring the potatoes with long wooden paddles. Later in the afternoon, they used buckets to remove the water, and add vegetables and 200 gallons of cream.

Hungry visitors watched the operation in wonder, taking photos and videos.

"I'm in awe," said Jennifer Johnson of Concrete. "That's way too many potatoes."

She came to the event with Kim Howell and her 7-year-old daughter, Josselyn Howell of Birdsview.

"It's pretty cool," Kim Howell said. "We're just wondering how long it took to cook all those potatoes up."

The first servings were sold for $5 about 51⁄2 hours after cooking started.

Students from the culinary arts program at Cascades Job Corps helped with preparations earlier in the week by cutting up the vegetables. In all, anywhere between 100 and 150 volunteers pitched in throughout the process, said Karin Springer, the event's organizer and owner of the Trumpeter Public House.

"It's great community involvement," Springer said. "There's a lot of support. It's amazing."

Erik Sadler of Oak Harbor looked on with his 10-month-old nephew, Jay Roberts, while his wife, sister-in-law and 4-year-old son helped stir the potatoes.

"It is kind of random," Sadler said, adding that he had no idea there was a record for potatoes au gratin. "They've got a world record for everything, but it is kind of neat."

It's not good enough just to cook up the heaviest batch of potatoes au gratin. To qualify for the record, all of it had to be eaten.

Jan and Steven Schaefer enjoyed the potatoes on the boardwalk.

"It was a little crunchy, but the flavor was really good," Jan Schaefer said. "It was pretty impressive to watch. We can say, ‘We were there.'"

As of 5 p.m., no more than eight of the 80 feet of au gratin had been scraped off the pan and served. Whatever was left over, Dustin said, would be refrigerated or frozen and picked up by homeless shelters and food banks.

* Lynsi Burton can be reached at 360-416-2149 or lburton@skagitpublishing.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/crime_svh.

Weekend editor Ralph Schwartz contributed to this story.

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