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Big crowd expected for 'Bonanza Extravaganza'

December 27, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY

erinc@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown career firefighters say they have sold quite a few $100 tickets to a fundraiser they have planned for May - eight months later than expected.

Rick Conrad, spokesman for the International Association of Firefighters Local 1605, said he is not sure how many, but knows orders are being placed every day.

"Once they hear about the prizes, the tickets just sell themselves," he said.

Ticket holders are eligible for prizes that include 2006 vehicles and Harley-Davidson motorcycles, rifles, camping trailers, recreational watercraft and cash. A prize will be given away every five minutes.

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And that's only one day.

The Bonanza Extravaganza, scheduled for May 12 to 14 at Hagerstown Speedway, is expected to draw up to 10,000 people.

"It's a three-day event like nothing that's every been in this area," Conrad said.

The event is a fundraiser for the local career firefighters group, but he said they are not sure how much profit to expect.

There will be live music, gaming, tip jars, food, drinks and carnival-style games.

The second day, May 13, is the main draw, Conrad said. More than $750,000 in prizes and cash will be won every five minutes from noon to 7:55 p.m. in lottery-style drawings.

At the bottom of every hour, a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle will given away. Thirty people will win $1,000 cash prizes; four will win $5,000; three will win $10,000; and one person will win the grand prize of $100,000, he said.

There will be more than 90 total winners.

Conrad and others saw the event in action on a trip to Cumberland, Md., and thought it would be a fundraiser that could be held locally, benefiting firefighters and local businesses.

"We expect hotels to sell out for this weekend," he said. "It's amazing, really. It boosts the economy in the area tremendously."

There will be campsites available at Hagerstown Speedway. A spokeswoman for the speedway referred all questions about the event to Conrad.

Beer will be served at the event. Conrad said there will be security in place to ensure those younger than 21 are not drinking alcohol. Because of the gaming and firearms, nobody younger than 18 will be allowed at the event.

Conrad said International Association of Firefighters Local 1605 is working with a professional security group and the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

All of the money earned through gaming will be donated to a local nonprofit group, most likely one that deals with fire education.

"We want to give back," he said.

In September 2004, the firefighters union asked the city to use Fairgrounds Park for a Bonanza Extravaganza Sept. 16 to 18, 2005. The Hagerstown City Council approved the event, but the union later rescheduled it after finding out it might have competed with a Citicorp fundraiser at the same time and place.

Conrad said Fairgrounds Park presented some logistical problems. The speedway can accommodate the 10,000 people expected to attend, he said.

"There is plenty of space," he said.

Two tents, each roughly the size of a football field, will be set up along at the speedway.

"It's going to be a huge, great event," Conrad said.

Tickets can be purchased by phone at 240-527-9857 or 301-991-4348. Additional information is available at www.iafflocal1605.com.

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