Gold panners set Guinness record

235 participants find color at California's Soboba Casino

Author: Paul LoulyThursday, December 10, 2015

Gold panners set Guinness record

Categories: From Around the Web, From the Pick & Shovel Gazette, News Release

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Article as featured in the December ’15/January ’16 edition of the Pick & Shovel Gazette. To subscribe, go to


GPAA Managing Editor

Exactly 235 gold panners in Southern California recently broke the world record for the most people simultaneously panning gold.

The new Guinness World Record was set Oct. 25 at the
Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, Calif., where lucky participants feverishly panned for gold. The previous world record of 100 gold panners was set in Romania in August 2009.

Parker Schnabel of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush fame was on hand to kick off the event, give a quick panning demonstration and to mingle with participants and guests at Soboba.

“I’m here to help out and make sure at least everybody tries to find at least some gold,” said the 20-year-old mine boss who raked in $3 million in gold on the show last season. 

Michael Empric of Guinness World Records flew out from New York to adjudicate the event.

“The record for the most people gold panning was broken today with 235 participants,” Empric announced.

The event began with more than 235 panners but a few were disqualified for not following the rules, he said. To qualify, all panners had to physically find gold in their pans without any help from their neighbors.

Natalie Bedolla of Pomona, Calif., panned out the most gold — weighing in at about four ounces.

“She got a ridiculous amount of gold. It was amazing,” Empric said. “It seemed like pounds of gold to me. It was amazing to see the vials that were not only full of gold but were also incredibly heavy.”

Though he did not get a chance to do any panning as the adjudicator, Empric knows panning that much gold is no easy feat.

“I have panned for gold. I did it in Alaska this summer. It was incredibly hard, much more difficult than I expected,” he said. 

For that reason, several Gold Prospectors of America members, including the local Hemet Valley Prospectors GPAA chapter, were at the event working as stewards and volunteers.

Schnabel gave the GPAA members a pat on the back for teaching others how to pan and prospect.

“You have to start somewhere,” said Schnabel who hails from Haines, Alaska. “I started at my grandfather’s mine, but that’s how I started — with a pan, a pick and a shovel. I didn’t stay at that size too long, but you gotta start somewhere, and if you love doing it, do what you can afford to. At the end of the day, 90 percent of gold mining will always be a hobby, because its very hard to make money gold mining. Gold mining is hard work.”

Now airing its sixth season, Gold Rush is the top-rated show on Discovery, Schnabel said.

For those who might be inspired to give up their day job and go gold prospecting, it’s not as easy as it may look on TV, Schnabel said.

“I don’t spend too much time in the casino because my life is gambling,” Parker joked with casino executives. “Gold mining is gambling, so play with what you can afford to lose.”

Soboba General Manager Scott Sirois said the casino promotion was a great way to reward winners with gold, have some fun and break a world record.

Hemet Mayor Linda Krupa, the official witness of the world record, and other local dignitaries attended the event. 

“We are extraordinarily excited about that,” Sirois said. “We’re doing this event because it’s a wonderful way for our guests, our VIPs, to participate in probably one of the oldest activities in the United States which is hunting for gold! So, our guests are really excited and we’re really excited.”

To earn their much-coveted spots at the panning trough, lucky casino patrons participated in the month-long Soboba World Record Gold Rush event, Oct. 1 to Oct. 24, culminating in the Oct. 25 finale outdoors at the casino stadium. The 250 winners, whose names were called while they were playing with their player’s cards won $500 cash and a spot at the panning trough. Each participant was given a small burlap sack of paydirt containing anywhere from $90 to $10,000 worth of gold.

The total amount of gold up for grabs was $47,000, according to Soboba officials. 

First published in 1955, the annual Guinness World Records book has sold 120 million copies in 22 languages in more than 100 countries. Guinness television shows are watched by 250 million viewers annually and its live  events team entertains and inspires 1.5 million people across the globe each year. Guinness receives more than 1,000 applications each week and has a specialized team of multi-language adjudicators who travel the world to verify official record attempts, and in this case a new world record.


Brad Jones is the Managing Editor/Communications Director for the Gold Prospectors Association of America and the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association. He can be reached at


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