What do you get when you cross a networking opportunity with some of the most prominent businessmen, officials and celebrities in the country with a quest to crack open cases of missing children? What if you put it all into a life-size board game that includes some of the finer qualities of Trivial Pursuit, the legendary “Cannonball Run” rally, and movies of the same name?
The one and only “Fireball Run Adventurally” – an eight-day, 14-city tour by 40 teams that go from one destination to the next by answering trivia questions and riddles about the cities they stop in.
And this year, the show stops in Mesa.
“We want people to start getting excited about it,” said Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Sally Harrison. The chamber is hosting the Sept. 26 Mesa stop.
Fireball Run is an online “live streaming and motion picture production” based at Universal Studios in Orlando. Currently in its seventh season, the rally is streamed live to nearly 1.7 million viewers and later turned into a series.
The online show, which runs Sept. 21-29, features teams of two to four who travel in cars — often collector worthy or famous, such as a Batmobile — along a state-to-state course. Each team sets out to complete missions based on clues and riddles that are tailored to each destination.
The show is more board game than race, despite the “adventure-rally” theme. In fact, each team is filmed live and tracked by GPS — and points are actually lost for unsafe infractions such as speeding.
Fireball Run Executive Producer J. Sanchez said teams committing more than three such infractions are disqualified and sent home, although it has never happened on the show.
“These are people who have a lot to lose and they are really well-behaved,” Sanchez said of the show’s famous and influential contestants.
When the rally comes to Mesa, the theme is the Cosmopolitan Experience.
Sanchez said Mesa’s art district was the attribute that really caught the crew’s attention.
“Your arts district is one of the best I’ve seen in the nation … I see 30 cities a year and (it’s) world class,” Sanchez said.
When the show, with this season’s title “All Stars & Movie Cars,” reaches the city, there will be a public reception at Mesa Art Center where contestants will show off cars and sign autographs.
As part of their duties, each team that competes must pass out at least 1,000 fliers along the way in an effort to help find a missing child from its home region. Each team also advertizes the details of the missing child on side of their vehicle.
Since 2007, 38 children publicized by rally participants have been recovered. That’s more than six per season.
“That’s a pretty good batting average if you ask us,” Sanchez said.
While noting that Fireball Run is a for-profit company, Sanchez said part of the reason they’ve been so successful is the prominence of the competitors grabbing the attention of the media.
“We don’t find these missing kids, the media does,” Sanchez said.
The prominence of its contestants is a big part of Fireball Run. Some of this year’s notable competitors include astronaut Jon McBride, former Lamborghini chief test driver Legend Valentino Balboni, Ray McClelland, host of Speed Channel show “Car Warriors” and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame President Terry Stewart, according to a news release.
On top of the teams’ missions and the public receptions in each destination city, Fireball Run provides a huge networking opportunity.
Following the public reception, the Mesa Chamber of Commerce will host the teams in a private party and connect them to local business leaders and officials. Fireball Run requires team leaders to be business owners, C-class executives, independently-wealthy people whose net worth exceeds $3.5 million, elected or community business leaders, celebrities, or U.S. military members, veterans or retirees.
This is an opportunity for a destination to showcase itself to other leaders and also so they get a hands-on experience the community — these are people who are captains of industry and influencers and it is Mesa’s day to stand out,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said the show brought an estimated $44 million in media exposure for its destination cities last season alone.
“It’s huge,” Sanchez said, adding that the full impact of the show hasn’t been calculated.
Harrison said the opportunity for Mesa and the local chamber was too sweet to pass up. The idea is that by getting the contestants connected to area business leaders there are opportunities for investment and other ventures with contestants, who may not have otherwise been in town to see such opportunities.
“They’re people with money … We want them to come back here and start businesses here,” Harrison said. Sanchez said it took the Harrison’s help to turn him onto what Mesa truly has to offer by giving Sanchez and other crew a tour of the city.
“If Sally was not such a good host, we wouldn’t be coming to Mesa,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said that the only element missing from Fireball Run is a Mesa team and that he hopes to see one on the show soon.
Besides, when you’re someone “who takes out the private jet like most people take the car,” as Sanchez describes most of the show’s contestants, how could you pass up a chance at the show’s coveted first-place prize as boasted on its website: bragging rights and a plastic sign?
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