AMESBURY — When seemingly half of Amesbury braved the rain to welcome The Fireball Run to town last year, both race participants and production crew members raved about how great a reception the city gave them.
The city left such a good impression that race organizers wanted to come back, and now The Fireball Run will return to Carriagetown in 2016, with Amesbury serving as the race’s finish line, the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce announced last night.
Chamber director Melissa Lachance made the big announcement following a screening of Amesbury’s portion of “The Fireball Run,” which was a $2 million Universal Studios production that saw 40 cars embark on an eight-day, 2,500-mile tour across the Northeast in a competition that resembled a cross between “The Amazing Race” and “Trivial Pursuit.”
“We got about six minutes in the movie,” Lachance said. “Some of the stops didn’t get any camera time, and there were people who were drivers that didn’t even get a part in the movie, so it’s pretty impressive that we got that much time. It’s a testament to Amesbury being an amazing community and coming together.”
The main goal of the race is to raise awareness of missing children in the U.S., and each participating car is adorned with a decal of a missing child’s face on it in the hopes that they can be found. Last year, Amesbury served as a lunch-stop toward the end of the competition; and when the race’s 40 cars arrived downtown, they were met by hundreds of residents packing the sidewalks in Market Square, including the entire Amesbury High School student body and the whole eighth grade as well.
Both Fireball Run participants and Universal Studios executives were blown away by the reception they received from Amesbury, and before leaving, executive director J. Sanchez said Amesbury would be a lock to be included as an overnight destination in a future iteration of the Fireball Run as long as he had anything to say about it.
Lachance said after the race was over, she spoke to Sanchez again, and he said that he wanted Amesbury to be the finish line for the 2016 Fireball Run.
“It blew us away,” Lachance said. “We were so happy that we did a great job for them, and that it showed, and that they were willing to come back and give us the finish line, which is huge, because it’s on every piece of marketing material from here to there.”
Last year, The Fireball Run’s finish line was up in Bangor, Maine, and Lachance said she spoke to her counterpart up there before agreeing to Sanchez’s request to see how their experience was as the finish line.
“We did our homework to make sure it was the right fit for us,” Lachance said. “They do about six different activities, so what we were thinking is maybe something at Cider Hill, Lowell’s Boat Shop, the Sports Park, something downtown, and really highlight all the hidden treasures that we have here.”
Lachance said the drivers will come into town like they did last year and complete several challenges, and then after they finish they will stay overnight and probably have a big celebration.
She added that each of the drivers are required to spend $250 in every community they stop at, which will give local businesses and community organizations a boost when they arrive.
“Some of them would be working with the Boy Scouts, so they would contact the local Boy Scouts and donate the $250 to them when they arrived,” Lachance said. “Or some would go to a restaurant and buy everyone beer, and some would go to an amusement park and buy everyone a ride.”
For the drivers who don’t have any particular plan to spend their money, Lachance said she would also be putting together a list of local nonprofits that drivers could support, such as Our Neighbors’ Table and Best Foot Forward.
Looking ahead, Lachance said she is hoping to put together a team from Amesbury to participate in both the 2015 Fireball Run to promote the city and the 2016 Fireball Run to represent it. She added that she’d also like to reach out to actor Jeffrey Donovan, an Amesbury native and winner of the 2007 Fireball Run, so he could be involved in some capacity.