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That’s a Wrap--Charity Event Is Full of Beans

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Call it the mother of all burritos, a massive, messy concoction of beans, rice, cheese, sauce and tortillas that stretched more than half a mile at completion and weighed in at a stomach-groaning two tons.

The gigantic burrito--which seemed no more than a distant, beefed-up cousin to the “little burro” of its name--was built at the Arrowhead Pond on Monday to raise funds for an Orange County children’s charity. Sponsors also hope to create a bit of culinary history by earning a spot in the “Guinness Book of World Records.”

Deputy county surveyor Michael S. Emmons, who was on hand to survey and certify the creation’s staggering dimensions, said the army of volunteer chefs had actually managed to build a burrito even bigger than expected, surpassing the previous record-breaker by more than 250 pounds.

The result, Emmons said, was a three-inch-wide burrito that stretched to 3,112.99 feet and--if it could have been weighed--would have tipped the scales at a hefty 4,217 pounds, the sum of its ingredients.

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The previous record-setter, built in Montebello, weighed 3,960 pounds and measured 3,055 feet, event spokeswoman Linda Martin said.

“Guinness is awaiting our submittal,” said Martin, who pointed out that notarized documents, photographs and a video of the gigantic burrito were to be flown Monday night to London to meet the deadline for the 1996 edition of the famous record book.

Organizing the burrito-building event were the El Pollo Loco restaurant chain and the Anaheim Splash professional indoor soccer team. Various corporations also provided financial assistance by paying $200 each to sponsor 50-foot sections of the burrito, and sending teams of volunteers to help with the burrito construction.

The event raised $10,000 for Olive Crest, a Santa Ana-based charity that operates a foster family agency and 23 group homes for abused, abandoned and neglected children.

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“It’s a big help,” said Dr. Donald Verleur, who founded Olive Crest in 1973. Verleur said the charity had not yet determined how it would allocate the money. But just being associated with Monday’s event should increase public awareness of the organization, he said.

As for the details of the burrito, it was assembled in 26 minutes by 250 volunteers using 744 pounds of beans, 279 pounds of rice, 310 pounds of cheese, 72 pounds of sauce and 2,812 pounds of extra-large tortillas. To support the burrito, about 400 tables were set up around the perimeter of the Anaheim Pond parking lot.

To put all those tortillas and beans in perspective, it would take more than 7,100 regular-sized burritos to equal its weight. And if the burrito were stood on end, like its Montebello predecessor, it would reach more than twice the height of the Empire State Building.

County health regulations prohibited the volunteers from eating their creation--because it was assembled outdoors and without food temperature controls--so the massive burrito was to be recycled into feed for poultry and cattle.

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But because Guinness required that it be certified as edible, a three-inch section was sliced off for Fred Caporaso, a nutrition professor who directs the Food Science Research Center at Chapman University in Orange.

“This thing is amazing, it’s huge,” marveled Caporaso as he prepared to bite into the burrito while a lunchtime crowd of volunteers and members of the media watched with anticipation.

The verdict? A thumbs-up sign of approval that was greeted with a round of applause from the burrito builders and a burst of music from a mariachi band.

“It tastes pretty good,” Caporaso pronounced. “Just like a normal product.”

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