Man with a mission: pick car to be raffled SOUTHWEST -- Mount Airy * Woodbine * Taylorsville * Winfield


July 16, 1993|By KATHY SUTPHIN

Every January for the past five years, Chris Barritt of Mount Airy has been given the task of buying a car of your dreams.

As chairman of the Mount Airy Fire Company's Carnival Raffle Committee, Mr. Barritt must find an attractive vehicle, in a catchy color, that fits within the company's budget and makes the public want to spend $5 or more on chances to take it home.

"I can't go out and get a car of my dreams, . . . it doesn't quite work that way," said Mr. Barritt. "We're always trying to find something that appeals to younger people without being too sporty that it turns off the older people."

This year's grand prize in the annual raffle is a "reef blue" 1993 Mustang LX with a sun roof, air conditioner, power steering, cruise control, AM-FM stereo cassette player and alloy rims.

"It's a five-speed -- everyone is real big on stick shift these days," said Mr. Barritt. "It's a sharp car. I wouldn't mind winning it."

Mr. Barritt's annual search for one car that appeals to everyone and fits the fire company's budget begins in January at local dealers. After his cold weather search narrows, he negotiates a "best price" with the automobile dealership. "The dealers are very accommodating on the price," he said.

After he presents his recommendation at a monthly fire company meeting, the car and deal must gain approval from the fire company. "The company as a whole makes the decision," Mr. Barritt said. "It requires a majority to be able to spend that much money."

This year's selection caught Mr. Barritt's eye while it was displayed on the showroom floor of Century Ford in Mount Airy. The Mustang, which he describes as teal in color, was purchased on Feb. 8 and made its ticket-selling debut at the fire company's turkey, oyster and ham dinner in March. "The car has generated a lot of interest," he said.

The raffle committee has two members -- Mr. Barritt and his wife, Eleonore -- who are assisted by many fellow fire company volunteers. With the selection and purchase of the grand raffle prize, their work is just beginning. Tickets must be sold first to pay for the vehicle and then to create a profit for the fire company.

The car must be protected from possible damage at all times, be kept showroom clean, and be displayed at fire company functions, the Mount Airy Lions Carnival, and shopping malls to generate interest in ticket sales. "It's something you steadily keep working at," Mr. Barritt said.

A weekend showing at an area mall is a labor-intensive task requiring seven four-hour shifts with two volunteers assigned to each shift so that the car is never left unattended.

"That gives you an idea of how many people it takes," Mr. Barritt said.

The car raffle fund-raiser culminates at the Mount Airy Firemen's Carnival, which will be held this year from July 26 to 31.

Mr. Barritt, who is a mechanic at Herb Gordon Mercedes-Benz in Silver Spring, arranges his work and vacation schedules so he can run the carnival raffle booth where the car will be displayed.

The majority of the raffle tickets are sold during Firemen's Carnival week, so rain can take a big toll on the fund-raiser's profits. "If we have lousy weather at the carnival, the car may not be paid for until the last night," Mr. Barritt said.

Car raffles have been held by the Mount Airy Fire Company through the years but were not a recent annual event until 1989, when Mark Eyler worked with then-fire company newcomer Chris Barritt to raffle a red 1989 Chevrolet Beretta -- very successfully. "It's very profitable for the fire department but dependent on so many things," Mr. Barritt said.

When Mr. Eyler and his family moved from the area, Mr. Barritt, who is both a Mount Airy volunteer firefighter and an emergency medical technician, took over the reins of the raffle committee.

During the past four carnivals, lucky winners from Frederick to Libertytown have been able to park the grand prizes in their driveways, usually on a single $5 raffle purchase. "They've been within 20 miles of town," Mr. Barritt said.

"It's fun to see the car doing well. It's fun to see people excited

about it," he said. "It's a long road from purchase to having it paid for and, at times, it gets a little tense."

The prized Mustang will be on display at Carrolltown Center this weekend and then corralled until carnival week, when the prize-winning ticket will be drawn late on the last night of the event. Tickets are being sold at the cost of three chances for $5 and seven chances for $10.

Winners do not have to be present to win the car, but hourly drawings of tickets during the carnival can garner $20 for the purchaser if a response is made to the announcement within 10 minutes.

The tickets then go back into the drum to await the grand prize drawing.

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