The Fireball Run Space race, a 2000 mile race, ends in Cocoa Beach Saturday with a parade Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.
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Video by Malcolm Denemark 9/29/15
Competitors in The Fireball Run end 2,000-mile East Coast adventure this weekend in Cocoa Beach Team Space Coast includes retired fighter pilot/Navy Capt. Jon McBride, a space shuttle astronaut. Another team with a local connection is Team Queen of Versailles, headlined by Jackie Siegel.
There is a parade and street party scheduled Saturday in Cocoa Beach
After driving down the East Coast on a 2,000-mile, eight-day trek, what better way to relax than a day in Cocoa Beach?
That’s what the 44 teams of drivers participating in The Fireball Run plan to do on Saturday. And Cocoa Beach officials are encouraging Space Coast residents to join in the celebration that will include a parade and street party.
The Fireball Run, now in its ninth year, calls itself “the race to recover America’s missing children.” Each team in the race is assigned a missing child case from their hometown area to publicize on their trip. J.J. Sanchez, executive producer of The Fireball Run, credits the event with helping locate 44 missing children over the years.
This year’s event has a space theme, with four teams that include an astronaut and with the route ending on the Space Coast. It’s being called The Fireball Run: Space Race.
Melissa Byron, Cocoa Beach’s director of marketing and economic development, says the participating teams of drivers at 3:30 p.m. Saturday will drive their vehicles in a parade down Orlando Avenue/State Road A1A from Fourth Street North to Minutemen Causeway. There will be a Fireball Fest Street Party from 3 to 10 p.m. along three blocks of Minutemen Causeway that will include a disc jockey and food vendors.
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Melissa Huey Byron, director Marketing and EconomicBuy Photo
(Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY)
Cocoa Beach to be finish line for 2,000-mile Fireball Run
Among the teams is Team Space Coast that includes retired fighter pilot/Navy Capt. Jon McBride, who was the pilot of space shuttle Challenger on a 1984 mission. McBride, now director of astronauts at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, is joined on the team by Bonnie King, deputy director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism and Space Coast film commissioner.
King says the Space Coast and the space program are getting extensive media attention along the way.
She describes McBride, a Cocoa resident, as “an aspirational personal ambassador, not only for Florida’s Space Coast tourism, but the Kennedy Space Center and also NASA.”
“Wherever the adventure goes, Jon McBride is a magnet for news media reporters,” said King, who is in her fourth year of teaming up with McBride on The Fireball Run
King said she’s hoping to see a huge crowd along the parade route to welcome the competitors Saturday in Cocoa Beach, with patriotic banners and flags.
Another team with a local connection that’s getting lots of buzz is Team Queen of Versailles, headlined by Jackie Siegel, who owns Orlando-based Westgate Resorts, the world’s largest privately owned timeshare operator, with her billionaire husband, David Siegel. Westgate last year purchased the Cocoa Beach Pier.
Siegel, a former Mrs. Florida America, leads a four-person team in a Lincoln limousine that includes Stanny Park, a former Mrs. Miami who has been in television commercial production for 27 years; Robin Wright, a former Mrs. Orlando who is works in business development for The St. Cloud Greater Osceola Chamber of Commerce; and Ryan Nolen, “The Inexperienced Limo Driver,” who is founder/chief executive officer of Vertical Lending.
“It’s been really fun traveling around with the astronauts,” Siegel said Tuesday, from the road in North Carolina. “It’s all fun and games. It’s so crazy.”
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But there have been glitches. Their limo, overloaded with luggage, broke down on Tuesday in Virginia, so they had to rent a van while their limo was being repaired.
“We met a really nice mechanic” who helped them, Siegel said. Now, the team is traveling in the limo, and their luggage is in the van that’s being driven by another driver.
And, sometimes, Siegel said, they pass through isolated areas without cell phone service, where they have to use paper road atlases to find their way, and “if you need a potty break, you’ve got to go in a cornfield.”
Siegel, though, turns serious when talking about a cause she is publicizing along The Fireball Run route.
A week after Siegel announced in May in Cocoa Beach that she was participating in The Fireball Run, she faced a family tragedy, when the Siegels’ 18-year-old daughter, Victoria, was found dead in the family’s Windermere home of an accidental prescription drug overdose. The Siegels formed the Victoria Siegel Foundation to raise awareness and provide support to youth and families affected by substance abuse.
“I really miss my daughter so much,” Jackie Siegel said.
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The Fireball Run is part adventure, part reality competition, with organizers referring to it as a “life-size trivia game, where America serves as the game board.” Teams win points based on solving challenges and finding landmarks along the way.
King said the contestants and their cars will be visible throughout the Space Coast this weekend, trying to solve game missions in Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne and Titusville.
They are scheduled to be at Port Canaveral’s Cove area for lunch on Saturday, at a private dinner banquet under the space shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the KSC Visitor Complex on Saturday night and at the Cocoa Beach Pier for brunch on Sunday.
King said she is hoping for a big crowd for Saturday’s parade in Cocoa Beach, and encourages spectators to wave flags and banners.
And Siegel promises she and her two female teammates will show up in “space girl outfits.”
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More on The Fireball Run
East Coast route: The competition started Friday in Hartford, Connecticut. The interim stops are Queen Anne’s County, Maryland; Williamsburg, Virginia; Topsail Island, North Carolina; Florence, South Carolina; Liberty City, Georgia; and Sanford, Florida.
Another local connection: Cocoa Beach City Attorney Skip Fowler and his son, Sean Fowler, an independent film producer and documentarian from Hollywood, are driving a Ferrari 458 Spider in The Fireball Run.
Three international astronauts: In addition to Cocoa resident Jon McBride, there are three other astronauts in the competition: Lt. Col. Marcos Cesar Pontes on Team Brazil, Cmdr. Rakesh Sharma on Team India and Maj. Gen. Jean-Loup Chretien on Team France.
Celebrity sightings: Among the other celebrities in the competition are actor Chris McDonald and actress/model Adrianne Curry.
Help for The Children’s Hunger Project: The Fireball Run teams support a children’s-focused organization in each city the event stops in. The Space Coast beneficiary will be The Children’s Hunger Project, which provides food to children in need. Teams will make food donations to the project.
Follow the race online: For team standings, videos and team profiles, go to www.fireballrun.com
Vote for your favorite: Teams get additional points for fan clicks on the fireballrun.com website. Find your favorite team, and give them a vote. Among local teams, Jackie Siegel is in Team 100, Jon McBride and Bonnie King are in Team 02, and Skip Fowler is in Team 68.