An online adventure travel reality series is about to put Liberty County in the international spotlight.
The ninth season of “Fireball Run” will be in and around Hinesville on Oct. 1, a week after kicking off in Hartford, Connecticut, and two days before winding up at its final destination, Cocoa Beach, Florida, according to the show’s website.
That Liberty County is one of eight destinations featured on the show is “an awesome acknowledgment of what we have to offer here,” County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said.
“The county has put in a lot of effort to restore our historic sites,” he said to the production crew during a Thursday news conference in Hinesville City Hall. “So we’re happy that somebody’s taking notice of that, and those sites are going to get to be in the spotlight.”
Dubbed “Space Race,” this season will feature four astronauts, one each from the U.S., Brazil, India and France. Participants will use a variety of vehicles, “from Fords to Ferraris,” executive producer J. Sanchez said, including a rare, $4 million McLaren M12 open-cockpit race car.
Officials are ecstatic about the exposure. According to a fact sheet, about 1.7 million viewers watch the show in its various online platforms, including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Fire and Roku.
“It means an opportunity to get our name across the nation,” Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said in an interview. “It is a priceless opportunity to get advertising we couldn’t otherwise get.”
Thomas said a movie that was partially filmed last fall in Liberty County, “Ben & Ara,” might have been the catalyst for the interest by the producers of “Fireball Run.”
“Our (Convention and Visitors Bureau) and Chamber of Commerce reached out to them, and they accepted based on that,” the mayor said.
Local team wanted
Sanchez said he hopes a team from Liberty County will take part in the race.
There are two reasons it’s important that destinations are represented by teams, he said.
First, every team is assigned a missing child from its region to publicize and for whom to increase search efforts. One mission of the show is to help find and rescue missing and exploited children — 44 have been rescued with help from the series since 2007, Sanchez said.
“It makes it personal to (the participants),” he said. “And they’re distributing 1,000 posters from one side of America to the next.”
Second, local teams help promote economic development in their areas, he said. He said in last year’s “Fireball Run,” about $60 million exchanged hands between the teams over the eight days.
“These are the dealmakers; these are the people who can bring jobs, expand operations and relocate headquarters,” Sanchez said. “And because you have them on that intimate level, it becomes personal to them. And the decision becomes less about the bean-counting and more about, ‘You know, I really enjoyed the mayor. He was such a good person. It’s a great place to live. There’s another business owner in here who’s influencing my decision.’”
Thomas and Lovette indicated that they would like to participate.
Teams consist of “key influencers,” such as business owners, executives, industry celebrities, elected officials and, of course, astronauts.
Community participation urged
Liberty County Chamber CEO Leah Poole added that Backpack Buddies, a program funded by Liberty County United Way that provides meals and snacks for children in low-income families during the weekends, will benefit from “Fireball Run” stopping in the area.
The teams take part in contests at their destinations. Similar to the board game Trivial Pursuit, driving teams are given clues scripted around brands or points of interest in the destinations.
On arrival at the place, the team must accomplish a task, which a series fact sheet describes as “once in a lifetime, rare or exclusive experiences.”
The finish line, Sanchez said, will be in downtown Hinesville. He urged the community to come out and cheer on participants.
“We want to see your schools come out. We want to see the kids in the marching bands,” he said. “The more family-friendly you can make your town look, the better it’s going to come across on camera.”