Friday, May 25, 2012

Two Towns Unite to Land Fireball Run

By Timothy Gillis
Staff Columnist

Ogunquit and Sanford have landed a exciting opportunity to be part of an effort that assists in the recovery of missing children. Fireball Run, has assisted in the recovery of thirty-eight missing children since the road rally started in 2007. Ogunquit will house the eighty participants and additional cast and crew members on Friday, September 28. Sanford is the location of a secret mission earlier in the day.
Karen Arel, president of the Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce, and Suzanne McKechnie, economic development specialist for the Sanford Growth Council, were the two main players in landing the adventure rally, called “2012 Fireball Run Northern Exposure".
“This is a great way for our regions to collaborate,” McKechnie said. “It’s a great way to show people what our towns have to offer.”
McKechnie got a phone call from the Sanford Downtown Legacy group, saying the show was interested in Sanford’s Pumpkin Regatta. The annual race features 800 to 1,000 pound pumpkins, carved out, painted, and raced on No. 1 pond in Sanford. Contestants in the race are clad in outlandish costumes and compete furiously to come in first, or at least not sink their pumpkins. The race, part of Sanford’s Harvest Daze, was featured on the National Geographic Channel, and drew the attention of Fireball Run. This September, the forty teams made up of business leaders, industry celebrities and elected leaders will test their own gourd-racing talents as one of the show’s many missions.
McKechnie called the Ogunquit Chamber and talked with Arel about the two towns combining efforts. The teams will stay in Ogunquit, at the Meadowmere Resort, and they will dine at Jonathan’s.
“We’re very fortunate they selected two businesses who were able to work with Fireball Run’s strict guidelines that are set for being the host hotel and host restaurant,” Arel said.
Part of the competition involves trading cards of the participants. Local fans of the show are encouraged to try to collect these trading cards as an avenue for possible future business. “If people can make it to the dinner, there will be some great business connections to make,” she said.
They are still looking for contestants to join the race. “If some local business wants to be the hometown team, they can contact me,” Arel said. “This is exciting. The country is the game board; the participants are the pieces.”
There will be two Maine celebrity teams in the race. Timber Tina Scheer, world champion lumberjill, and Carolann Ouelette, director of the Maine Office of Tourism, will be raising awareness for the search for Ayla Reynolds, of Waterville. Bill and Valerie Sowles, of Yarmouth, will be trying to increase awareness for the search for Aydriana Tetu, of Lewiston, according to David Hickman, executive vice-president of marketing for Fireball Run. Bill Sowles owns Morong Brunswick and Morong Falmouth with his brother, Peter.
There are forty two-person celebrity teams. “We used to have more teams but we’ve pared it down, restricting it to forty,” said Hickman. The teams will begin in Independence, Ohio, and travel more than 2,000 miles in eight days, through fourteen cities. The trip ends in Bangor. They will complete hundreds of missions, locating items of local, historic nature or something from pop culture. “It will be roadside, whimsy fun,” Hickman said. The teams race to collect points for achieving a mission, and then find out what the next mission is.
“It’s a nod to ‘The Cannonball Run’ movies with Burt Reynolds, but also a nod to Fireball Roberts, a Nascar driver from central Florida,” Hickman said. Fireball Run is produced at Orlando Studios in Florida. Jay Sanchez, the show’s director, said the Fireball Run is a celebration of the America less-travelled. “We have forty influential teams who are going to discover your communities.” This year’s run celebrates women in professional sports.
Sanchez said the show will pull in more than $40 million worth of news media this year, up from $13 million their inaugural year. News media coverage is a statistic determined by what the coverage of the event would be worth in advertising dollars. In other words, the road rally is so popular, good for local businesses, and benefitting a worthy cause that makes it such an interesting, newsworthy event.  
Sanchez, who said he didn’t know how to pronounce Ogunquit when he first heard of the town, came to love the area quickly. The crew was in town last week to announce the show at a press conference held at Perkins Cove. They met with local authorities to hash out the myriad details for a show of this large scale, and were whisked around town by Maine Limousine to scout possible filming locations. (photo by Tim Gillis)