About 2,400 volunteers gather in Arlington to help organizers by 'painting with light'

Posted Sunday, Mar. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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ARLINGTON -- Add the Big Shot to the list of unusual events that Cowboys Stadium has been used for besides its primary gridiron purpose.

The nighttime community photography project started 26 years ago by a pair of Rochester Institute of Technology professors drew an estimated 2,400 volunteers to the venue's parking lot Saturday night for a chance to help make a unique image by "painting with light."

But Guinness World Records rejected a request to create a category for the most people participating in a photograph, which the event hoped to have claimed.

Organizers Bill DuBois, Michael Peres, Dawn Tower DuBois and Willie Osterman had said the stadium's size and glass exterior would pose perhaps the biggest challenges for the annual project since its first year in 1987. They had hoped to enlist 5,000 volunteers to illuminate the building with flashlights and handheld electronic camera flashes. Streetlights in the vicinity were turned off.

"The weather is good, which is awesome, and the crowd is still trickling in," Peres, a co-founder of the project along with Bill DuBois, said about 30 minutes before the first of five images was captured. "We had hoped for a bigger turnout, but it's hard for people to get their head around what this is about. So we'll increase the exposure time to one minute."

The Duboises climbed into a scissor lift, which took them high above the crowd. Osterman gave instructions to the volunteers over an ambulance loudspeaker. Peres monitored the results in real time via a website on his tablet.

A minute-long exposure turned out to be too long. Organizers began making adjustments, having the volunteers change their positions and point their beams in different manners.

"Everything is perfect. We're going to do one more just like it," Peres was told by radio after the fourth image was captured.

"Sounds like a plan," Peres replied.

When the ambulance siren sounded signaling the end of the project, cheers rang out just as they would after a home-team victory.

"Thank you for making this a memorable night," Osterman said over the loudspeaker. "We appreciate your patience."

Climbing into a golf cart that would whisk him and the rest of the team to the media room inside the stadium where the photo would be processed, Bill DuBois said he was pleased with the results after the early hiccup.

Vicki and Bob Badertscher of Arlington were among those who came out to help. "We would normally go to Billy Bob's, but we decided to come out here instead," Bob Badertscher said.

Others included Dan and Christy Zirnheld of Irving, who, along with family friend Josh Harris, came out because their niece Jennifer Zirnheld works for RIT. "We had to buy a couple of flashlights," Dan Zirnheld joked. "We gave the Wal-Mart [near the stadium] some of our money."

Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels, who watched near the staging area, said stadium officials felt that the community would enjoy the project.

"It's gives people another way to connect with the stadium," he said.

Students and faculty from the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science also made a three-dimensional image of the stadium as the Big Shot was carried out.

Patrick M. Walker, 682-232-4674

Twitter: @patrickmwalker1

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