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More than 16,000 attend sixth annual Bonanza Extravaganza

Fundraiser for nonprofits in Washington Co. draws interest from as far away as Russia

May 07, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Woodbine, Md., resident Robert Mize gives his wife, Willa Mize, a big hug after she won this 2011 Chevy Avalanche truck at the Bonanza Extravaganza Saturday afternoon.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Robert Mize had a premonition on Friday.

"We're coming home with a new Chevy," the Woodbine, Md., resident told family and friends.

Maybe he has a future as a fortune teller.

Shortly before 1 p.m. on Saturday, Mize's wife held up her winning ticket and claimed a 2011 Chevrolet Avalanche.

"I'm in shock," she said. "I've never won anything in my life."

But her husband had been thinking positive.

"I knew we would win big today," he said.

The vehicle, valued at about $47,000, was just one of many prizes awarded during the sixth annual Bonanza Extravaganza, a fundraiser sponsored by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1605 Foundation Inc.

Seven Chevrolets, seven Harley-Davidsons, two campers and cash prizes — all totaling more than $825,000 — were among the items up for grabs during the two-day event, which opened Friday night at Hagerstown Speedway.

The grand prize was $100,000.

When the group held its first Bonanza six years ago, John Murray, president of the Local 1605 foundation, said organizers were hopeful it would be a success.

"I don't think we have to worry about that anymore," he said.

This year's event drew about 16,000 people.

"It's just a testament to our sponsors and customers who continue to support us and make it as big as it has become," Murray said. "It's cliché, but we couldn't do it without them."

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

This year, he said, a person living in Russia purchased a ticket and was following the event on the Internet, tracking the winning numbers.

While Bonanza is an opportunity for people to win prizes and have fun, the purpose is to raise money for local nonprofits.

"We've given about $525,000 to volunteer fire companies in Washington County in five years," Murray said.

This year's Bonanza also offered a cornhole tournament and a Bonanza Promise. Patterned after the Prom Promise, Murray said people who pledged not to drink wore a special armband and were eligible for special prizes both nights.

As an emergency services organization, Murray said it was important to promote responsible behavior during the event, so safety shuttles were provided to all local hotels.

Murray said about 200 hotel rooms were occupied over the weekend thanks to Bonanza Extravaganza.

This was the first year that Derrick Mentzer attended the event, but after winning $1,000, "I'll absolutely be back next year," he said.

The Waynesboro, Pa., resident said he attended the event to participate in the cornhole tournament.

"I'm usually not very lucky and didn't think I had a chance of winning any of the raffle items," he said. "Maybe I'm lucky after all."

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