About 40 entrants in the seventh Fireball Run “adventurally” will spend a few hours in Mesa Sept. 26, where its presence should benefit at least one local charity and a number of city businesses.
Featuring the same general premise of the old “Cannonball Run” films — albeit without the presence of Burt Reynolds’ mustache or the inimitable Jackie Chan — Fireball Run features about 80 contestants in 40 vehicles who take a eight-day jaunt around much of the southwest United States. The drivers started in Longmont, Colo., last week and conclude their journey in Riverside, Calif., on Sept. 29.
In between the two destinations are stops at Arizona locales Page and Mesa, with the latter encompassing a stop at the Mesa Arts Center on Sept. 26, said Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Sally Harrison.
“It’s going to be fun; we’re excited that they are coming to Mesa,” she said.
The Mesa stop is split into two portions: a public meet and greet at the Arts Center from 3:30 to 6 p.m. and a VIP event from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The former offers residents an opportunity to meet the competitors, who sport team names like “Electric City Haulers” and “Charlie’s Angels,” and the vehicles they drive. It’s a fascinating field of competitors and vehicles, as the teams include city and state legislators from Ohio and New York, a stuntman, an astronaut and a couple of Mainers tossed in for good fun.
The second part, which requires people to purchase tickets, includes a dinner with the contestants and local leaders.
“It’ll be a nice evening to talk Mesa and all that Mesa has to offer,” she said.
Despite the vehicular involvement, Harrison said the winner of the Fireball Run isn’t the team that arrives at the final destination first; rather, points are doled out and accumulated for activities like joining a local chamber or signing up for a charitable cause. The charitable organization for the Mesa stop is Helen’s Hope Chest, which provides supplies like socks, shoes and underwear to foster children.
Harrison said the selection of Helen’s Hope Chest as the charity of choice is tied to Fireball Run’s overriding goal of helping find missing children across the country. Every team has a child to search for by handing out flyers and posting information in every city they visit.
In the six completed seasons of the show, Harrison said Fireball Run has helped locate 38 missing children — a total she simply described as “huge.”
“This is not about a race where they’re going to drive fast; this is a race to find a missing child. That’s what it’s really about,” she said.
Fireball Run also benefits the communities they visit by supporting the local economies at every stop by joining the chambers and even purchasing the items for the local charities — in this case it’ll be undergarments, jeans and socks for Helen’s Hope Chest — of choice within the city limits.
And, perhaps, one of the 80 or so competitors might take a shine to Mesa and become more than a one-time visitor.
“Maybe someone will come back and open a business here; you never know,” she said.
The race began last week, and episodes from every stop are available by visiting fireballrun.com.
If you go
What: Fireball Run
When: Sept. 26 3:30 to 6 p.m.
Where: Mesa Arts Center: 1 E. Main Street Mesa
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