You have to take your hats off to John and Suzie Cook.
For 11 years, the owners of the Tustumena Lodge in Kasilof have been collecting hats. In that time, they've managed to put more than 22,000 lids on display on the walls, ceiling and anywhere else there's room inside their establishment. And for a while now, they've been claiming to have a larger collection than anyone, anywhere.
Last Tuesday, that boast became official, as the Cooks received notice that the Guinness Book of World Records had officially certified their collection as the world's largest.
"We got a letter on Tuesday. They sent a letter and a certificate saying we had the record. It's exciting," said Suzie Cook Friday from the lodge.
Cook said the collection began in 1991. By 1995, the Cooks had so many hats, they decided to look into the record. Since no record for a hat collection existed, they had to do a lengthy application and certification process with Guin-ness.
"In 1995, we wrote a letter trying to get in. After we got over 20 thousand, we said, 'lets do a real try,'" Cook said.
So the Cooks, again, took up the application process, this time with a little help.
"The borough did a resolution recognizing us that we sent with the application," she said.
The people at Guinness wanted more than that, though, before recognizing the Cooks' achievement in headgear storage.
"(The application) was very lengthy. There was all kinds of certification and paperwork to do," she said.
Cook said in addition to the lodge's own running total, Guinness had to have an independent auditor count each and every one of the hats. When the official numbers were tallied, it was determined there were 20,422 hats in the collection.
However, since that count, the total has risen substantially. As of Friday, Cook said the tote board where the lodge posts a running total of the hats read 22,014, nearly 2,000 more than the official record.
"It just keeps growing and growing," she said. "The board says 'world record hat collection.' Now we're going to have to change it to 'Guinness Book world record collection,'" she said.
The only problem the Cooks have now is figuring out where to put all the new hats that keep coming in. The existing lodge space already is filled to the brim.
"We might have to do some building this summer," she said.
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