Funerex Africa, a "trade expo and motoring experience for funeral professionals", organized a very special parade.
The largest parade of hearses took place at the Kyalami Grand Prix Track, South Africa.
But don't worry: despite the grim appearance, the event was a cheerful occasion to bring together workers in the funeral industry from all over Africa, creating a positive environment of striving towards a common goal - breaking a record.
On 17 March 2022, 122 vehicles gathered last March in Midrand, South Africa, on a track measuring 4.522km.
Upon their arrival, the hearses and the drivers' licenses were both checked by a specialized driver training company, MasterDrive.
If the vehicle and driver passed the check, a yellow wristband was placed on the driver’s wrist and a yellow sticker was placed on the car.
The driver’s wristband would be then numbered once they entered the parade, to aid the counting process and to avoid mistakes.
Although Funerex was aiming for 137 hearses, "only" 123 vehicles lined up at the start.
One of them, unfortunately, encountered technical problems during the attempt and was deducted from the count.
In other words, the hearses counted in the record were only the ones that crossed the finish line at the end of the enormous parade.
The astounding amount of cars varied from classic, gothic-looking black hearses to modern white cars.
Although spooky in appearance, the reunion of so many different hearses held an important meaning for the workers in the funeral industry.
Through this attempt and the preparations before, such as the pledges, the exhibition aimed to engage and unify the funeral industry.
All collected in a page on Funerex’s website, different funeral parlours pledged their commitment to the attempt.
The associations each filmed a video pledging how many vehicles they would be able to dedicate for the record.
The participation spanned from a handful of vehicles to over twenty cars, also depending on the size of the business.
What really mattered was unifying the industry under the banner of this record attempt, as it would allow different associations to shine and put them on the map to foster industry pride and unity.
The event aimed to cast a positive light on an industry that was uniquely affected by the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The industry played a pivotal role during the pandemic, with the overall business in South Africa growing by 12% annually according to reports.
Sadly, this growth marked the overwhelming number of deaths caused by the pandemic. Dealing with this unprecedented spike took a huge toll on funeral service workers and their mental well-being.
This attempt marked an opportunity to celebrate something positive within their industry after a tumultuous and demanding couple of years.
Did you know where the word "hearse" comes from?
The etymology of the word comes from herce, meaning harrow.
The French noun is rooted in the ancient Latin word hirpex: "large rake".
Originally pointing to a carriage that could be hand-drawn or pulled by horses, as the first motorized hearses appeared in 1900 in the United States, hearses owe their name to their similarity with a harrow.
Despite its somber appearance, perhaps the story of the largest parade of hearses might remind us that there's an industry of specialists there to aid and ease the funeral process for our loved ones - but that they are people that struggle like everybody else.
Participants received prizes at the end of the parade, such as hearse decks and graveside set-ups.
During the rest of the expo, funeral houses and visitors from all the African content could browse the newest models of hearses, shiny coffins and all kinds of funeral services.