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Bonanza Extravaganza pays off for attendees, charities

May 08, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Dave Quesenberry of Calvert County, Md., cheers into the microphone after winning $2,500 Saturday during the fifth annual Bonanza Extravaganza at Hagerstown Speedway. Holding the microphone is event coordinator Rick Conrad.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Gary Arntz almost went golfing.

It was his day off, the weather was great and it seemed the natural thing to do.

Instead, he drove from his home in Martinsburg, W.Va., parked at Hagerstown Speedway and purchased a ticket to Bonanza Extravaganza.

One hour later, his winning number was announced.

The prize?

A new Chevrolet Camaro.

Arntz, 37, said he attended the event the past three years, but never won anything.

He made up for it on Saturday, claiming one of two Camaros that were awarded to lucky ticket holders.

But Arntz doesn't plan on keeping the car.

"I'm thrilled that I won it. But I'll probably sell it," he said.

Arntz was among 16,000 people who attended the fifth annual Bonanza Extravaganza, a two-day event that opened Friday night at the speedway that offered more than $825,000 in prizes.

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Sponsored by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1605 Foundation, the event helps raise money for local nonprofits.

"We've given more than $350,000 to volunteer fire companies in Washington County in just five years," said John Murray, vice president of the foundation. "We've also given $40,000 to Children's Village and over $50,000 to Antietam Healthcare Foundation for a van."

When the group held its first Bonanza Extravaganza, Murray said organizers hoped it would be successful.

"But I don't think anyone anticipated it would grow to be this big," he said.

Murray said people come from all over to attend the event, including New York, Ohio and North Carolina.

"One family holds their reunion here," he said.

Dave Quesenberry was among those who traveled from outside of the area to attend the extravaganza.

A resident of Calvert County, Md., Quesenberry said he attended last year's event and came within one number of winning $10,000.

"I was feeling lucky this year," he said.

His instincts were right, as his winning ticket earned him $2,500.

Prizes during the two-day event included seven new Harley-Davidson motorcycles, seven new Chevrolet vehicles, campers, four-wheelers, cash and merchandise.

The grand prize was $100,000.

The event also included live entertainment and food.

Murray said it was important to the organization to promote responsible behavior, so safety shuttles were provided to all local hotels.

"The event is great for the local economy," he said. "As of Friday, 300 hotel and motel rooms were filled because of this."

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