MERNA—After years in the making, sixteen-year-old Rhett Safranek has been verified as a Guinness World Record holder! Safranek, of Merna, has been a huge fan of The Muppets since he received his first The Muppet Show VHS tape when he was 18 months old.
Rhett’s mother Kelli said she and her husband always enjoyed Jim Henson’s characters when they were younger and Kelli would put in Muppet movies for her kids, Rhett and Shaylyn, to watch while she cooked dinner.
“Starting with the whole Muppets way back when he was little brought back long childhood memories for my husband Craig and I because that’s what we used to watch when we were—not so much kids—but that brought back childhood memories. But then we started the process and that’s how Mom got to make supper each night because he [Rhett] would sit and watch The Muppets,” Kelli Safranek said.
In 2016, Rhett’s collection had grown to the point where he decided to pursue a world record title. He achieved this title after months and months of paperwork, counting items, taking pictures, creating spreadsheets, and filming the counting process. After all was said and done, the world record was verified on October 1, 2017 with a grand total of 1,841 Muppet items.
Kelli Safranek said only five percent of applications received by Guinness World Records per month actually make it into the official world records. The counting process required hours’ worth of counting by unbiased counters, which included Custer County residents Tami Schendt and Tammy Hendrickson.
The “hunt” for Muppet treasures included the whole family and support of friends and strangers alike. Rhett purchases items online, the family goes antiquing, and many supporters have sent Rhett items in the mail. His oldest item is from 1977 and Rhett said his collection also includes items from Australia, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, United States, and the United Kingdom.
As a child, Kelli said Rhett would take his Gonzo the Great stuffed animal with him wherever he went. Parents Kelli and Craig have enjoyed helping their son achieve this designation and said it has brought back many childhood memories for them. The Muppets were even incorporated into family vacations with trips to Muppet museums in Atlanta and New York.
“It’s been a huge family affair,” Kelli said adding that the family has The Muppets on their family checks.
Rhett, who will be a junior at Anselmo-Merna High School this fall, still claims Gonzo the Great as his favorite character. As Rhett has grown up, he said the desire to collect Muppet memorabilia has transitioned from knick-knacks and toys to official Muppet movie props and items from the cast and crew—and he does not plan on quitting any time soon!
“I got older and I realized the memorabilia stuff is kind of worth money and it’s kind of cool. So I just got into more of the memorabilia stuff more than just games and little kid stuff. And I guess I just kept on because there’s no use of quitting any more. Since the counting I’ve gained 500 items,” Rhett Safranek said.
Rhett’s favorite Muppet movie is The Great Muppet Caper and he even has a knack for puppeteering. Rhett has an interest in the history behind The Muppets and the film-making process. He has participated in one act, speech, and community theater over the years, but does not know where his future will take him. Where ever life leads him, you can bet Gonzo and the gang will be nearby.