FLORENCE, S.C. — A celebratory downtown block party will commence around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, as soon as the 50 Fireball Run teams make it across the finish line at the intersection of South Dargan and Cheves streets in Florence.
“The big event is just to make a fun atmosphere for the people that come to cheer on the drivers as they cross the finish line for the day,” said Cory Roberson, who works for the Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Before the party begins, the groups, composed of celebrities, astronauts, political leaders, corporate executives and other business leaders, must first complete the day’s missions at various tourist attractions around Florence.
Because it is a competition, teams will finish separately and some may come in earlier than others, said Holly Beaumier, director of the Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau.
People are welcome to come downtown as early as 3 p.m. to wander around and wait for teams to cross the finish line.
The Josh Brannon Band will be playing at the block party until 6:30 p.m., and there will be an after party in the Renaissance Courtyard behind the restaurants on South Dargan Street.
Free ice cream will be given to the first 250 kids at the party, and there will be multiple forms of entertainment, including the Williams Middle School robotics team, the Flying Tigers remote control car club and a classic car show.
The Fireball Run is a 13-episode travel series, which is televised internationally and streamed in the United States. This year’s season is called “Space Race,” because there will be four astronauts competing.
Though it may seem like reality television, the adventure show is actually what executive producer J. Sanchez calls “factual entertainment.”
The contestants are real people on a real journey, he said, and all of their experiences along the way are real.
Teams travel 2,000 miles in cars from Hartford, Connecticut, to Sanford, Florida, playing a life-size trivia game at each of the eight stops along the East Coast.
“Everything you might see on a trivial pursuit game now comes to life,” Sanchez said. “You look, find and often engage in those trivia moments.
But, perhaps most important, the series also raises awareness for missing children in the United States, he said.
Each participant is assigned a missing child from his or her hometown and given 1,000 posters to distribute in each town.
The Fireball Run, now in its ninth season, has contributed to the recovery of 45 missing children, Sanchez said.
Corey Wallace, general manager of the Hampton Inn and Suites – Florence North and Roger Allen, general manager of the Hampton Inn and Suites – Civic Center make up Florence’s Team Raldex. They will be passing out fliers for missing child Amir Jennings of Columbia.
Beaumier said she pushed for Florence as one of the show’s eight stops for several reasons.
“Any positive coverage is great for Florence,” she said. “But this event focuses on the tourism attractions and also on economic development because the majority of the teams are made up of the top executives at large corporations.”
They are coming to Florence to get a feel for the community and decide if it is somewhere that they would want to invest, she said.
At the block party, Sanchez said, there will be opportunities for locals to meet the participating celebrities and astronauts.
Notable celebrity names include reality television star Jacqueline Siegel, model Adrianne Curry, actor Christopher McDonald and Wheels 4 Warriors tech Ray McCelland. MythBusters star Grant Imahara, originally on the list of folks to have appeared, won’t be there.
The astronauts are Capt. Jon McBride of the United States, Cmdr. Rakesh Sharma of India, Lt. Col. Marcos Pontes of Brazil and Gen. Jean-Loup Chretien of France.
There will be a start line at the intersection of Irby Street and Evans Street as the teams leave Florence the morning after the party.
Vehicles will be led out by the Harley Owners group and the Rolling Thunder, a group of motorcycle-riding veterans.
The vehicles will be lined up by 8:30 a.m. Oct. 1 and will leave from downtown at 9 a.m.