Astronauts, Celebrities to Help Promote Historic Triangle on ‘Fireball Run’ Web Series

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From left to right: Fireball Run Brand Integration Director Aidy Alonzo, Child Development Resources Executive Director Paul Scott, Virginia Tourism Corporation President and CEO Rita McClenny, Williamsburg Mayor Clyde Haulman, Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance President and CEO Karen Riordan and Fireball Run Executive Producer J. Sanchez pose for a photo during a press conference of the show at the Williamsburg Municipal Building on Monday. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)
From left to right: Fireball Run Brand Integration Director Aidy Alonzo, Child Development Resources Executive Director Paul Scott, Virginia Tourism Corporation President and CEO Rita McClenny, Williamsburg Mayor Clyde Haulman, Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance President and CEO Karen Riordan and Fireball Run Executive Producer J. Sanchez pose for a photo during a press conference of the show at the Williamsburg Municipal Building on Monday. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)

Forty-four teams of drivers locked into a 2,000-mile rally will blow into town in September for a Trivial Pursuit-style series of games, a visit that local leaders hope will help promote the Historic Triangle to new audiences.

The drivers are all part of the Fireball Run, a self-described “adventure rally” web series that pits the teams against each other in a trivia-laden trip from Hartford, Conn., to Florida’s Space Coast — an approximately 70-mile sliver of the state’s eastern shore that includes the Kennedy Space Center.

The Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance successfully bid to have the Fireball Run select the Historic Triangle as one of several host locations for the racers as they make their eight-day journey.

While here, they will film much of a 44-minute episode, tracking down clues and solving trivia questions hidden throughout area landmarks.

J. Sanchez, the show’s executive producer, said at a Monday morning press conference at the Williamsburg Municipal Building the show has an audience of 1.7 million viewers worldwide. He said those viewers are primarily educated, affluent and interested in traveling.

“This show was created for destination marketing and economic development,” he said.

Destination marketing is a term used in the tourism-promotion world, meaning how a place like the Williamsburg area — where tourism is a major part of the economy — markets itself to potential visitors. Sanchez said the show sticks around forever online, meaning that after the initial burst of viewers as the episodes premiere, new viewers are continually exposed to the locations portrayed in each episode.

Along with the viewers, the people who participate in the race tend to have money to spend. He noted they spend on average $1,700 per team at each destination. Furthermore, they tend to be the kind of people who can “relocate companies” or who are searching for their “second or third vacation home,” he said.

That means the Historic Triangle has to do its best to come off as an appealing place when the teams arrive for filming in September.

Alliance President and CEO Karen Riordan said Monday that she became interested in the show not just for its ability to market the area to potential tourists but to also draw the community together for a few days of fun.

For example, a public event will be staged when the teams are in town, with local leaders appearing on camera to welcome the visitors.

The season of Fireball Run set to film in September will not broadcast until June 2016. Its theme is “Space Race,” with the four astronaut teams at the heart of the action.

Each season of the show has a different theme, with past seasons delving into adventures on the American frontier — i.e., Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri — the great deserts of the Southwest and the industrial corridors of the Rust Belt. The teams travel in vehicles ranging from old jalopies to finely tuned European supercars, stopping in each host location to play trivia games and interact with locals.

The web series picks a local charity at each of the eight host cities per season, bestowing a gift of material goods the charity finds useful. The show has selected Child Development Resources, a local nonprofit that helps connect families of young children with the services they need, as its Triangle charity of choice.

CDR Executive Director Paul F. Scott said he is thankful the show has chosen his organization as an official charity. He said he is in talks with a CDR client — a mother whose baby was born with what Scott described as “some unique challenges” — so she can tell her story on the show.

The space-themed race features four current and former astronauts. They are: former NASA Astronaut Jon McBride; Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian in space and holder of the title Hero of the Soviet Union; Marcos Cesar Pontes, a Brazilian astronaut; and Jean-Loup Chretien, a retired French brigadier general.

The four astronauts will be joined in the rally by celebrities including Jacqueline Siegel, star of The Queen of Versailles, America’s Next Top Model winner Adrianne Curry, Grant Imahara of MythBusters and Ray McClelland of Speed Network’s Car Warriors.

Sanchez said he likes to have a team from each host city participate in the rally. A team from the Triangle has not yet been finalized. Anyone interested in participating in the show can learn more by contacting the Alliance at 229-6511.

Along with the local charities at each destination, the show also gives back through working with the Child Rescue Network. Each team is given 1,000 posters of a missing child, which they then hang up at sites throughout the journey. An informational sheet from the show touts the media campaign by the show for CRN as having resulted in the successful recovery of 44 children.

The show will be broadcast online in June 2016. It can be seen on the iTunes store, Google Play, Amazon Fire TV and other streaming providers. More information about the show is available at its official website.

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