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http://www.thedahloneganugget.com/articles/2010/10/20/news/01%20parker.txt

Somebody alert the folks at Guinness, Johnny Parker panned his way into the record books Sunday afternoon at the 48th Annual World Open Gold Panning Championship in Dahlonega.

He was able to pan eight gold nuggets from a pan of sand one inch deep in just 7.52 seconds.

“I didn't set out trying to break the record,” said the Consolidated Gold Mine tour guide.” But about midway through I knew it felt too good.”

Midway came about three seconds into Parker's record breaking run in which he unexpectedly took down the long standing record of 7.55 seconds.

In the gold panning realm, this is a number that ranks right up there with Aaron's 755. Now the new number is 7.52. And it belongs to Parker.

Parker's peak performance was no beginner's luck. He's been trying for more than two decades to top the elusive 7.55 mark established by Don Roberts of California in 1989.

It was then that a 17-year-old Parker barely missed claiming the title for his own when he broke the former world record of 9.23 by more than a second. However, his performance was overshadowed by Roberts who had already smashed the record by nearly two seconds a few minutes earlier.

“His dad said that record will probably stand 20 years,” said Parker. “And it did.”

In the meantime, Parker perfected his panning technique while working at the gold mine, teaching thousands of tourists to pan over the years. As a result he never had to officially practice for the event.

“It's natural,” he said. “Everything I do is natural. I don't think about it.”

The World Open Panning Championship originally began in California in 1961 and moved to Dahlonega in 1988.

It's an event that's open to all ages as evidenced by the turnout of 18 junior contestants this year.

However, no matter the age of the panner, the rules and regulations of the tournament are strictly followed.

“That's the only reason it's recorded by Guinness is because it's held so precisely every year,” Parker said.

A total of eight regulation-size gold nuggets are buried under an inch of sand in the pan. The contestant has to swirl the pan in the water and manage to get all the sand out of the pan, but none of the gold, since a lost nugget equals a ten second addition to the final time.

When the action is complete a panel of judges studies the pan. Some count the nuggets while others look for sand. Suches resident Erno Owens places a BB in the dish and if the ball is covered by sand then the pan is declared “dirty” and the panner is disqualified.

Consolidated Gold Mine management keeps an official-sized BB in a vial just for the occasion.

On Sunday afternoon, Parker stood by in suspense as he waited for the judges to present his official time.

Time keeper Kimberly Drew wrote the first two numbers and then paused to thicken the tension.

“She wrote 7...point ...5 and then she stopped,” said Parker.

Finally she wrote the final “two” that Parker had been waiting 20 years to see.

The new record of 7.52 will now be sent to Guinness by gold mine manager Dathan ?????.

“It was exciting,” he said. “An absolutely perfect pan. It was flawless.”

Those in attendance applauded as Parker was presented with a small miner made of pure Dahlonega gold, an award that has been on hand for years in case of a record setting performance.

Each competition it is displayed for the afternoon, only to return to its small black bag for the year.

As for Parker, he had a good feeling the miner would be his even before he dipped in hands in the water.

“Before I started I looked at the gold and first thing I said was ‘You're mine,'” he said with a smile.

7.52 seconds later, he proved himself right.

:thumbsupanim Terry

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