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)

Rodeo to Raise Money for Wounded Warrior Project

By Timothy Gillis
The Churchill Ranch Rodeo at York Wild Kingdom, June 1 through 3, will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, whose mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors.
Kenny Churchill, the champion bull rider, is holding the 2nd annual event as a way to share his passion for bull-riding and the rodeo, as well as pay tribute to veterans. “I took care of a veteran for thirty years,” Churchill said from his ranch this week. George Parker, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, was friends with Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister, and the Kennedys.
“I used to have a cleaning company in Brookline, Massachusetts. One day I found him on the floor, unconscious, going into a stroke,” Churchill said. “When he got better, I asked him for contact information, in case it ever happened again. He said he didn’t have any.”
Churchill brought him into his own family, and cared for him until last August, when Parker died of cancer.
“He was like a grandfather to my kids,” Churchill said. “He loved the military so much. I know he would love that we’re doing this for the Wounded Warrior Project.”
The rodeo weekend kicks off Friday, June 1, at the York American Legion at 7:30 p.m. with a silent auction. There will be four live bands – Johnny Wad and the Cash, Whiskey Kill, Jandee Lee Porter, and Walkin’ the Line – and food and drink. The event is hosted by the World Cup Bull Riders, the Motor Cross Team, and the Monster Truck Team.
Churchill rode professionally for twenty years, and was in the championship finals for sixteen of them. The rookie champion of the year in 1982, Churchill is happy to have his rodeo at York Wild Kingdom, on Saturday, June 2, and Sunday, June 3. He had tried to have it at his ranch in the past, but ran into trouble with permits.
“It’s going to be a great time, and a good cause,” he said. (courtesy photo)

Local Woman Featured in National Magazine for Her Work Fighting Polio

By Timothy Gillis

Ann Lee Hussey is featured in this month’s issue of Real Simple. The South Berwick native has traveled twenty times around the globe, bringing polio vaccines to poor countries. Most recently, she was in Chad. “I’m going back to Nigeria in the fall. I plan to return to Chad and the South Sudan,” she said from her home this week. “Even though these countries are not on the endemic lists, their neighboring countries are, so the neighbors are at risk.”
Hussey was in India in February of last year when the World Health Organization took India off the polio endemic list. But her efforts reach far beyond that. “Some people just go to India, or places they know have trouble. I like to go to other places that are also at risk,” she said.
Hussey, who suffers from polio herself, has made it a life quest to help eradicate the disease. “Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus,” according to the WHO website. “It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralyzed, 5 to 10 percent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.”
Hussey said the disease is less prevalent now, but is still a problem in many parts of the world. “Most cases are now found in areas of poor sanitation resulting in fecal contamination of water, and primarily occurs in children under the age of two,” she said. “The first vaccine was available in April 1955 by Dr. Jonas Salk.”
All this globetrotting is taxing on Hussey, especially given her continued health concerns. “I have changes that I fear may be early signs of  PPS,” she said. PPS is post-polio syndrome, a progressive condition that causes muscular weakness, pain, and exhaustion for up to twenty-five percent of polio sufferers.
Her husband, Michael Nazemetz, is proud of the work his wife is doing, and of the national acclaim the magazine article brings with it. Often working behind the scenes as Hussey’s PR man, Nazemetz also knows full well how challenging all this travel is for someone with chronic joint and muscle aches so painful they interrupt sleep.
Hussey says it’s all worth it. Knowing she may be able to help rid the world of this deadly disease is a pretty good panacea. (courtesy photo)