- Each year, the two-day fundraising event draws more than 16,000 people — making it one of the top destinations in Washington County.
- Tickets are sold in almost every state and even, on occasion, in other countries.
- And many people, who travel by planes, trains and RVs, choose Bonanza Extravaganza as the site of their annual family reunions.
Why is it such a big deal?
Maybe it’s the entertainment, including live music that’s a little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll.
Maybe it’s the food, which ranges from all-American to gourmet.
But, most likely, it’s because a prize is given away every five minutes. And not just any prize. We’re talking brand new cars and trucks, motorcycles and a coveted cash prize of $100,000.
For the past eight years, Bonanza Extravaganza has been a major money-maker for the International Association of Firefighters Local 1605.
In 2005, they formed a nonprofit philanthropic foundation, charged with raising money to fund health and welfare improvements for the residents of the greater Hagerstown area.
Because of Bonanza Extravaganza’s success, said John Murray, president of the foundation, more than $800,000 has been donated to local nonprofits, including $40,000 to Children’s Village and a $60,000 van used by an organization to transport patients to and from cancer treatments in the area.
Last year, about $110,000 was raised from the event with the money going to school band boosters, volunteer fire companies, volunteer EMS companies and more, Murray said.
“We hope to be able to match last year’s totals,” he said.
The upcoming Bonanza Extravaganza will be held, as it always has, on Mother’s Day weekend, Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11, at the Hagerstown Speedway off National Pike, west of Hagerstown.
The event will include more than $825,000 in prizes, eight Chevy cars and seven Harley-Davidson bikes, plus campers and ATVs.
Murray said the idea for a Bonanza Extravaganza came about after several members of the local firefighters group learned about a similar fundraiser in Cumberland, Md.
“Cumberland’s event was the spark that started our thought and planning process,” he noted.
But organizers had no idea it would grow into the huge event that it has become.
“We hoped it would and knew that there was great potential to develop Bonanza Extravaganza,” Murray said. “But each year we are humbled by the support we get from business and patrons across the Tri-State area.”
Today, according to Murray, Bonanza Extravaganza is the largest two-day money and prize giveaway by a nonprofit in the United States.
With a budget of more than $1.3 million, the event is an “energy shot for the local and state economy,” Murray noted. “We expect to fill over 400 hotel rooms in the region, encouraged by our Coors Light Safety Shuttle that runs buses on loops to and from the event to carry patrons.”
Murray said national sponsors have continued to grow along with the event.
“It is one more shining example of what motivated, committed professional firefighters can do when they put their mind and muscle into an idea for the greater good of our city and county,” he said.
Murray said organizers are expecting a gate count of about 8,000 people each day and tickets continue to be sold across the country.
“There are large groups coming from the Carolinas and New York, as well as from Las Vegas,” he said. “Each year, we highlight people on stage who have traveled the farthest.”
It also has become the site of family reunions, he added.
Safety always is a concern among organizers, Murray said, so once again, Meritus Health will be sponsoring Bonanza Promise, providing $3,000 in money prizes to designated drivers who sign up during the event.
“If you are a designated driver and don’t drink the entire night, we want to reward that safe behavior,” he said.
If you go ...
WHAT: Bonanza Extravaganza
WHEN: 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, May 10; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 11
WHERE: Hagerstown Speedway, 15112 National Pike, west of Hagerstown. Saturday, May 11
COST: Regular tickets are sold out. VIP tickets are $150. Guest tickets, not eligible for Saturday drawings, are $20.
CALL: Call 301-991-4646 or go to www.bonanzaextravaganza.com
Bonanza Extravaganza schedule
Friday, May 10
- 2 p.m. — Parking gates open
- 4 p.m. — VIP ticket holders may enter
- 5 p.m. — Event gates, vendors and beer sales open
- 10 p.m. — Big Friday Night Money; 20 winners will collect $1,000. Must be in attendance to win.
- Live entertainment — Main Tent:
- 6 to 8 p.m. — Mighty Midget Men
- 8:30 to 10 p.m. — Crush Theory
- 10:30 to 11 p.m. — Crush Theory
- VIP Party: Rob Fahey
Saturday, May 11
- 8 a.m. — Parking gates open
- 10 a.m. — Event gates open
- Noon — Drawings begin; attendance optional for Saturday’s drawing.
- Live entertainment — Music Tent:
- Noon to 1:40 p.m. — Ernie Bradley & The Grassy Ridge Band
- 2 to 3:40 p.m. — Skweez Play
- 4 to 5:40 p.m. — River Knot
- 6:10 to 7:50 p.m. — Crush Theory
- 9:15 to 11 p.m. — Tuesday’s Gone
- 9:15 to 11 p.m. — DVK Entertainment’s High Energy Dance Party
A complete list of prizes, entertainment and ticket information can be found at www.bonanzaextravaganza.com or by calling 301-991-4646.