The Fireball experience

Two Matts, in a huge truck, put thousands of miles on the road for TV, and a cause

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Fireball Run participant Matt Johnson, general manager of Fort Dodge Ford, who teamed up with Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich, talks about their adventures filming the show in September of 2017. The show premiers on Amazon on January 15. Participants in the show also helped raise awareness of missing and exploited children. Eugene Martin, who’s flier is projected on the screen, was the team’s child.

Thursday night was a premier night in Fort Dodge.

A special showing of the Amazon show Fireball Run Big Country was screened at Iowa Central Community College in the Bioscience and Health Sciences Building auditorium.

That episode, and five others from the season, features scenes shot in and around Fort Dodge along with Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich and Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota General Manager Matt Johnson, who participated in the run as a team.

The TV series follows 40 teams through a 2,000 mile trivia game that took them from Wisconsin to South Dakota.

The two team members got along well on the trip.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen With momentoes from their time on the show lining the stage, members of the audience prepared to watch Episode 19 of the show Fireball Run Big Country Thursday night at Iowa Central Community College.

“We didn’t have a lot of time not to get along.” Bemrich joked.

The race and filming took place in September 2017. Fort Dodge was an overnight stop on Sept. 27. The community threw a big party to welcome the participants to town.

“When we arrived,” Johnson said. “The reception for all the teams was amazing. They really rolled out the red carpet. People from all over the community came out. We were completely blown away. The energy and excitement is something I’ll never forget.”

They were given a sendoff on Sept. 28 that included artillery fire, courtesy of the local Iowa Army National Guard unit.

“I told them the mayor approved it,” Johnson said. “It’s fine.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen As Fireball Run participant Matt Johson, right, talks about the experience. his fellow team member Matt Bemrich, at left, snaps a quick photo of the audience.

“They told us that would have cost about $30,000 in production in Hollywood,” Bemrich said. “We did it basically for free.”

While the run may have been fun for both team members, there’s a serious mission to it as well.

Along the way, the teams help distribute fliers to raise awareness of missing and exploited children.

“Since this began it’s helped in the resolution of about 60 cases.” Bemrich said.

They also helped raise funds and materials for local charities at each stop. In Fort Dodge, it was Upper Des Moines Opportunity Inc.

“We raised almost $4,000 in Fort Dodge,” Bemrich said. “It added up to about $40,000 total as we traveled.”

Episode 19, which was shown Thursday, features teams at various sites in Fort Dodge. Teams had challenges at the Fort Museum and Frontier Village, raced 1/4 scale RC cars, and visited Dodger Stadium and Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex, Hawkeye Community Theatre and the Karl L. King Museum.

One team even got to wear town founder William Williams’ hat.

Another scene included was just as telling of the spirit of Fort Dodge as the huge reception and send off. A team stopped and asked a motorist directions to the Fort Museum and Frontier Village.

Rather than explain, he offered to do what any good Fort Dodger would do.

He led them there.

“Just follow me.” he said.

So how did the team from Fort Dodge do? Bemrich and Johnson did not divulge the answer.

‘We’re not allowed to say.” Johnson said. “You’ll just have to watch the show.”