In Pursuit Of An Amazing Event

The race is held twice a year on a Saturday for 6 hours. In the fall, the team of four has to be over 18 years old. In the spring, one of four team members has to be over 50 years old, and one has to be 8 to 12 years old. Davis doesn’t believe in repeating challenges, likes to have one water challenge, and always has a challenge similar to one on the television show. There are 10 to 14 challenges for the all-adult race, which is complex and time-consuming, and 14 to 17 challenges for the adult-and-child race, which is easier and takes less time to complete. That adds up to a lot of new challenges over 7 years! Davis has learned to encourage sponsors to create their own challenges, and to locate them at their facility. They really embrace this request. After all, creating challenges is a great way for the sponsor’s staff to become involved, and having teams come to the site certainly promotes the business. Restaurants, assisted-living centers, and hotels make up the majority of challenge sponsors. Teams have raced through pools at hotels, played “hum that tune” with nursing-home residents, and made pizza and burritos at area restaurants. These challenge sponsors also donate gift certificates and prizes for the goody bags that all volunteers and participants receive, and the sponsors often provide food for the after-party.

The fee to compete is $60 per team, which more than covers the cost of T-shirts. Volunteers are provided with free shirts. Supplies are needed for challenges, but not many, because staff members and volunteers are always thinking of ways to utilize random donations and event leftovers throughout the year—like the terrible-tasting candy snowflakes used in a stacking challenge. And one year, cases of donated cereal were used for a Tony the Tiger challenge. It takes Davis an entire year to procure enough donations to cover the $5,000 in prizes, which include day- and weekend-trip packages for the top-three teams, goody bags, and door prizes. Besides receiving a bag filled with a gas card, free entertainment passes, and restaurant freebies, volunteers and competitors are entered in door-prize drawings for gift cards and other cool treasures. Volunteers are provided a snack bag to tide them over until the after-party meal, and an extra chance for a door prize the night before the event during a short training session. It’s a sure-fire way to ensure good attendance—give away presents and food!

One of the most time-saving devices Davis has utilized is a donation calendar, much like the one a grant writer uses. Over the years, she’s gathered information about who donates what and when. “As long as you follow the guidelines specific to each business, there’s a lot of free money and merchandise out there,” Davis says. “And if you only need one more thing to make the trip perfect, like a hotel stay or a zoo pass to a city, give that vendor a call and let them know what everyone else has donated. You’ll be surprised at how well that works.” This past spring, the first-place team won a Cincinnati package, which included four tickets to an amusement park, plus parking, gas cards, an overnight hotel stay, food certificates, four tickets to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game, and zoo tickets. The goal is for the winners to enjoy their trip without having to spend anything if they don’t want to. The second-place team won an Indianapolis package with tickets to the children’s museum and the symphony, a hotel room, downtown bike rentals, and a family comedy club.

“Did we kick ourselves that first time, when the event filled up the first day and we had to get down to business? Maybe a little,” says Davis. “We were overwhelmed with how much work it would be. But now it’s much easier. We’ve got it down to a science.”

Patti Davis is the preschool/youth supervisor at the Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department Community Center. For more information about the Amazing Race, reach her at patti.davis@cityoffortwayne.org.

Natalie Eggeman is the Public Information Officer for the city of Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department. Reach her at natalie.eggeman@cityoffortwayne.org.

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