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Optimist Club revs up for 31st annual Road Rally

By Staff | Jul 1, 2010

In addition to their public service, Optimists Board of Directors members, Dani Howard, Richard McCurry, President Stan Howard, Randy Carson, Mark Steger, Ian and Amy Wainwright and John Jones show their true 4th enthusiasm and spirit in anticipation of the upcoming 4th of July road rally, one of the biggest events on the island.

Ladies and gentlemen start your engines.

In about 24 hours scores of islanders and fun-seekers will rev their vehicle’s engines and put their thinking skills in high gear to enter the 31st Annual Road Rally on Sanibel.

The Road Rally will start at noon on Saturday, July 3 in the Timbers Restaurant parking lot following Sanibel’s Independence Day parade.

The popular July 4th holiday event and tradition is sponsored by the Sanibel-Captiva Optimist Club to raise money for their scholarship fund. Members hope to raise around $5,000 from the event – enough to pay for one scholarship – or a year’s worth of schooling for a college student. But while the Optimist CLub is dedicated to raising money for needy students its also devoted to creating a fun way of doing it.

Road Rally?

For those who have never heard of one of the island’s oldest traditions, the Road Rally is a scavenger hunt for answers done via automobile.

But its not a speed contest.

“People need to know that it’s not a race,” said Dani Howard, an Optimist Club member. “Its based on time, correct mileage and correct answers to the clues that you’re given.”

And the clues can stump even the most clever among us. Two years ago Howard had designed a test using rhymes – a method that apparently left many contestants working their brain power. But for those rhyme challenged worry not – rhyming is out this year. There will be just good old fashioned head scratchers this year.

About 30 to 40 cars will vie for prizes and the chance to hold the No. 1 spot in the Road Rally. Prizes are awarded in the first, second and third place category for time and distance closest to the race committee’s target plus points for answers to the questions, and for the best/most fun decorated vehicles. There will also be a 50/50 drawing. And for those who come in last there is a well – shall we say consolation prize.

“It’s a ball.” said Randy Carson, a San-Cap Optimist Club member and co-organizer.

And for the 35 to 40 contestants who usually show up each year to the Road Rally, its not about the prizes or even winning matter for that matter.

“It’s a fun thing to do,” said Richard McCurry, a San-Cap Optimist Club member and co-organizer. “People look forward to it. People come from out of town to do this.”

Mary Karas and her family are getting there white minivan decked out and ready for the Road Rally. For the past several years the Fort Myers-based family has been attending the event making it a family tradition. Her now adult children Chad Benson and Marissa Zinkus find babysitters for their children and hit the highway with Karas and family.

“Its just a given that we do it every year.” Karas said. “Hopefully more of our community will join in. We go so far as to rent a minivan so all six of can fit in there.”

Karas said she has been doing road rallies since her children were little. They started in Illinois and continued doing it when they heard about Road Rally on Sanibel. So far they have completed about 25 road rallies as a family. On the day of the Road Rally, the family sports matching shirts and always wear red.

They are hoping to do well this year. Two years ago the family came in second – an honor they hope to beat.

But its the fun and camaraderie they hope to score most.

“What I like is you have to figure out the clues and you have to work together as a team,” Karas said.

Chad Benson, 32, looks forward to one day getting his own children involved in the Road Rally. Every family member takes a role in the rally, he said. One is the driver, another a look-out and another a clue reader.

“We look forward to it every year,” he said. “The chaos and the excitement. We love doing it as a family. Its a tradition.”

Howard said the event can draw laughs and comical adventure during the event. Some people wind up in the penalty box positioned in the parking lot at Timbers. If people bring wrong answers back after the Road Rally they are asked to move into the penalty box to try and figure out the correct answer. Some couple have been known to get into laughable disagreements over the answers and driving.

“I am always excited that you want everybody to have a good time,” Howard said.

The entrance fee per car is $35. Road Rally organizers provide contestants with detailed directions and fun questions — you find the answers along the way. The route takes 2-1/4 hours or so.

This year, the Road Rally begins and finishes at the Timbers Restaurant, located at 703 Tarpon Bay Road, in the parking lot at noon. You may pre-register and request a preferred start time. Organizers will get as close as they can to your request. All entrants will be able to see the parade before the Road Rally.

Entry forms will be available from The Sanibel Café, Bailey’s General Store, American Legion Post 123 and the Sanibel Grill/Timbers Restaurant.

Following the Road Rally, the Sanibel Grill (at Timbers Restaurant) will be open for a post-Rally party for everyone. Prizes will be awarded for time and distance closest to the race committee’s target plus points for answers to the questions, and for the best/most fun decorated vehicles. There will also be a 50/50 drawing.

Make checks for entries and for donations payable to the Sanibel-Captiva Optimist Club Foundation. Mail your entry forms, fees and also donations to:

Sanibel-Captiva Optimist Club, P. O. Box 1370, Sanibel, FL 33957-1370.

For further information and details on sponsorships, call Randy Carson at 699-8739, Richard McCurry at 292-4631 or Dan Alton at 472-3861 or e-mail us at sancapoptimist@comcast.net.