Fire bash

Miss Frostburg Dance 2009 Jenna Smith, Boonsboro, and Al Ward pull winning numbers during the seventh annual Cumberland Firefighters Local 1715 sportmen’s bash at the Allegany County Fairgrounds Saturday afternoon.

Steve Bittner/Times-News
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Ken McKenzie, who coordinates the annual sportsmen’s bash for Cumberland Firefighters Local 1715, estimated there were 5,500 bodies at the Allegany County Fairgrounds Saturday, many of them holding $100 tickets and hoping to win one of the substantial prizes, such as a 2009 Hummer H2, a Colorado hunting vacation, a 2009 Mercury Mountaineer 4x4 or the last and best prize of $100,000 which was drawn at 8 p.m. and signaled the end of another successful bash.

There wasn’t much time to check your ticket between prizes. Every five minutes, a celebrity such as Miss Maryland or Miss Frostburg Dance would make the lottery balls pop to the top and another winner would be announced: $5,000 at 3:45 p.m., $1,800 gun package at 4:50 p.m., 12-day Alaskan cruise at 5:30 p.m., laptop computer at 6:50 p.m., and so on and so forth.

“After it is all said and done we put about $100,000 clear in the bank each year,” McKenzie said.

This is the 7th annual bash. Winners have come from many states, including distant ones.

“Sixty-five percent of our tickets are sold outside of the area,” McKenzie said. “We’ve had winners from Alaska, North Carolina, New York, you name it.”

Shuttles run throughout the day between area motels and the fairgrounds. “We want people to have a good time and not worry about driving back to where they are staying,” McKenzie said. “The Fairfield Inn is open now so we added our union van into the shuttle mix to help with that.”

Indeed, besides holding $100 tickets, many in attendance where holding beer mugs, which they bought for $10 and which entitled them to stride up to one of many watering holes were cold suds were being tapped.

Larry Bendle and Tina Ruby of Frostburg had $200 worth of opportunity, but as of 2:45 p.m. had not scored, though they were already ahead of the game based upon the 2008 bash.

“We won a Harley Davidson (motorcycle) last year,” Ruby said.

“It was a $23,000 bike. We paid the taxes on it and then we sold it on Ebay to a guy in North Carolina for $18,700. He came up and trailered it back. He said that made his 12th Harley he owns.”

In the past, cash options were not possible for those who won trucks or vacations or Harley Davidsons.

“This is the first year we have offered a cash option,” McKenzie said. “The winner can choose to accept cash equal to 75 percent of the value of the prize and they have 15 days to make up their minds.” All winners are notified by certified mail.

McKenzie said he and another firefighter had traveled to Ellenboro, Pa., years back to attend a similar bash conducted by firemen in that area.

“We said ‘We can do this and do it even bigger and better,’” McKenzie said Saturday. The local event now begins on a Thursday and continues through Sunday.

Even as McKenzie spoke, volunteers at tables near him were selling tickets for the 2010 bash.

“When we started this years ago, it had an outdoors flavor with guns and hunting and fishing trips being a lot of the prizes,” McKenzie said. “People have been telling us they are not that interested in winning guns so next year we won’t have them as prizes, but our lowest cash prize will be $1,000.”

Although guns won’t be on the prize list, a number of peripheral gun raffles will be ongoing around the fairground’s multi-purpose building for those wanting that kind of opportunity.

Todd and Suzi Dyche of Grantsville were DJs at the event Friday afternoon, but on Saturday they were there as potential prize winners and enjoying good weather and $10 beer mugs.

“We’ll take any prize our number will win us,” Todd said. “They all look pretty good to me.”

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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