World Record Ferris Wheel Ride 'Definitely Worth It'
STREETERVILLE — With 17 minutes to go on his Guinness World Records attempt, Clinton Shepherd said the view of Chicago from the top of the Navy Pier Ferris wheel was enough to keep him going.
The 32-year-old Ferris wheel operations manager at Navy Pier was accompanied by friends, family, his blue Superman socks and an Xbox during the 48 hours in which he had to stay awake to break the previous record for "longest marathon on a fairground or theme park attraction."
"I'm almost official," he said on his 380th cycle on the wheel.
Shepherd made 384 loops in all — he was accompanied by his mother on the last, who exclaimed, "my baby, the superstar," when the wheel touched down for the final record-breaking cycle.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel also stopped by to congratulate Shepherd, but stopped short of taking a spin.
"He got in, looked around and hopped back out," Shepherd said, adding that the mayor said he appreciated what Shepherd was doing and that it was "good for the city."
The previous record, set in Edmonton, Alberta, last July by a radio DJ, lasted 30 hours and 35 seconds.
According to Michael Empric, a Guinness World Record adjudicator who happened to be at both record-setting runs, Shepherd "blew it out of the water" — his final time on the wheel came in at 48 hours, eight minutes and 25 seconds.
Shepherd could have stopped soon after 31 hours, but said he wanted to make sure the next person who attempted to beat his record thought long and hard about whether they really wanted to spend more than two days in a rotating box.
"The Ferris wheel was invented in Chicago, so I wanted to make sure this record stayed in Chicago as long as it can," he said.
The chilly nights were the hardest part of his two-day run, and while the sunrise on the first morning was foggy, Shepherd said the Sunday morning sunrise made it all worthwhile.
He spent a good deal of time playing Call of Duty on his Xbox Live account, FWRecord.
An admitted sneakerhead with about 20 pairs of "classic" gym shoes, "like Air Jordans and LeBrons," the Wrightwood native had custom kicks made at the Nike store on Michigan Avenue.
They're blue with red and yellow accents, an homage to his love of Superman.
"They call me 'Superman Shep' around the pier," he said.
Shepherd, who celebrated a four-year anniversary with his girlfriend aboard the wheel, was greeted by fans, friends, family and a marching band around 2:30 p.m. when he stepped off — Empric handed him a certificate of completion and said his name will be listed in the record books.
The adjudicator had checked security cameras and "detailed logs" of Shepherd's run to make sure he had stayed awake before calling the the record-setting run "an amazing achievement."
"It's definitely been worth it," he said, settling back on solid ground. "It's my friend's birthday today, so we're going to go out and celebrate. I'm gonna go and enjoy this."
Despite spending two days on the wheel, Shepherd said he didn't plan on taking a nap before heading out to celebrate.
"If I go home, it's over," he said, through the fatigue.
And the cure for 48 hours on a Ferris wheel? A beer or cocktail would do, he added.
The record-setting run was made in conjunction with Armed Forces Day, and Shepherd's Ferris wheel cart was decorated with USO stickers in honor of U.S. troops. Shepherd's father is a retired Marine.
His mom, Renee Shepherd, said Clinton has "always been adventurous," ever since he got his first tricycle and "wanted to do a wheelie."
"I am ecstatic and so very proud," she said. "And to bring attention to such a worthy cause ... he far exceeded his goal — he kept going."