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Fund-raiser would involve alcohol, gambling and guns

August 11, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A firefighters union fund-raiser expected to draw thousands of people to Hagerstown in September 2005 will raise money through alcohol sales, gambling and by raffling off cash, vehicles and firearms, organizers of the event said Tuesday night.

The Hagerstown City Council gave organizers from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1605 the go-ahead to continue planning the event, but city officials asked questions about the fund-raising methods and what the union would do with the money.

Organizers are basing their plans on a similar firefighters' fund-raiser held in Cumberland, Md., said Richard Conrad, the IAFF local's special events coordinator and a Hagerstown Fire Department truck driver and firefighter.

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The three-day event could draw between 6,000 and 7,000 people to Hagerstown's Fairgrounds Park, Conrad said.

Organizers would charge a convention admission of $100, which would enter attendees in a raffle, Conrad said. People would be allowed to camp at the fairgrounds.

While the event would begin Friday, Sept. 16, 2005, the most popular events would not begin until the next day, Conrad said. That Saturday is when organizers would begin raffling off prizes at five-minute intervals, with a grand prize of $100,000 in cash.

Other prizes would include cars, motorcycles, boats and trucks, Conrad said. Local groups would be allowed to run tip jars at the event. Tip jars are a popular form of paper gambling in Washington County.

Conrad also said local businesses would benefit financially by providing services for the event and its visitors.

In a report about the plans, City Parks and Recreation Department Manager John Budesky said he could not recommend the event to the mayor and council, citing the possible damage from the heavy use of the park, and plans for alcohol consumption and gambling, which go against city policies.

Mayor William M. Breichner, looking at a list of items raffled off at the Cumberland event, said "I see a lot of rifles, carbines. Is that the intention here?" Breichner also questioned raffling off pistols, which were on the list.

Conrad said there would not be any firearms at the park, but winners would claim them outside the park. Conrad said the winners would be subject to background checks.

Councilmen Lewis C. Metzner said, "the issue is ... where the money is going to go." He said he hoped the union would put money toward improving the park.

Conrad said after the meeting that the money would be used to support community organizations as well as the union's efforts to support its members.

Some city officials applauded the efforts to bring the event to the city.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said "It's a good event and an exciting one."

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