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Bonanza Extravaganza brings tears, cheers from big winners

May 10, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Instead of checkered flags, many winners at Hagerstown Speedway were met with checks Saturday.

Prizes worth more than $800,000 were given out during the two-day 2008 Bonanza Extravaganza, which started Friday.

Once again, Hagerstown's Local 1605 of the International Association of Fire Fighters sold all 10,000 tickets for the event, at $100 apiece. Ticket-holders' guests could enter, but not win, for $20.

The top prize of $100,000 will go to a Frederick, Md., man who was notified by phone Saturday night. He didn't want to be named for this story.

Kevin Clipp of the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. arrived in the evening to help out at a gaming table. The prize board indicated he won $1,000.

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His plan: "Put it away for now."

Carol E. Baker of Boonsboro and her mother, Dorothy, sat for hours in front of the stage from which winning numbers were drawn.

Then, their time came; they won $5,000.

"What's today's date?" Carol Baker asked as she filled out paperwork in front of the headquarters trailer. "I'm so excited."

Their ticket was a Christmas present that Carol Baker bought to split with her mother.

Asked where the money will go, Dorothy Baker paused, then said, "Divide it up among the kids."

In a sense, that's what will happen to proceeds from the Bonanza Extravaganza, which the firefighters' union held for the third straight year.

Rick Conrad, an event organizer, described it as "extremely smooth," especially after a parking problem Friday night was ironed out.

Once costs are covered, a majority of the proceeds goes to local causes that support fire safety and prevention, said Glenn Fuscsick, the treasurer of the union's nonprofit foundation.

"We've given over $250,000 the last two years," he said.

The allure of prizes -- cash, cars, motorcycles, trailers and more -- drew many people to the Bonanza Extravaganza.

Others were content to lounge, mingle and fill their plastic yellow beer cups, which cost $10 for a day's worth of beverage.

"I'm kind of just here for the social part of things," said Jewel Collins, who lives near Hagerstown and works at South Hagerstown High School. She's also a graduate -- class of 1978 -- and saw some people she hadn't seen since high school.

Patti Leazier of Clear Spring was there to people-watch.

She hadn't won anything.

"But my expectations aren't high, so I don't leave upset," she said.

Some people were disappointed when they learned the wet T-shirt competition was canceled.

Rebecca Harpster of Johnstown, Pa., and Debbie Nichols of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., were poised to enter.

"We didn't win a car. We didn't win any money," Harpster said. "The least we could do is win $200 in a wet T-shirt contest."

Harpster's fiancé, Chad Gutshall of Johnstown, wanted to know who shut it down.

Earlier, he purchased a T-shirt at the stand from Jenny Ritchey of Hagerstown, a volunteer.

"I said, 'I'll buy the shirt if you sell me the one you're wearing,'" Gutshall said.

And Ritchey did. She took off her shirt -- but not her bra -- and sold it.

"He was the only one who asked me," Ritchey explained, answering the question "Why?"

The happiest people appeared to be the tiny percentage of ticket-holders who won.

Barb Cluroe of Hagerstown was crying when she learned she won two Harley-Davidson 883 Custom motorcycles.

She and her significant other, Tom Madison of Hagerstown, stopped at a Harley-Davidson tent to see one of the bikes.

Dustin Mitchell of Smithsburg kept checking the results board on Saturday, but he hadn't won anything.

"I was getting pretty tired, so I fell asleep in my truck," he said. When he woke up, came back and checked the board again, he had won $1,000.

"It's going to bills," he said. "It's a shame, but that's where it's gotta go."

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