More than 15 years ago, I was general manager of a NASCAR weekly race track in San Antonio, Texas. It was always a challenge to find new ways to keep our great fans entertained during lulls in the racing action.
My wife and I found some help in a man named Ed, who had retired after nearly 30 years in the Air Force. Ed unofficially put himself in charge of lining up the color guard and National Anthem performers for the pre-race activities. He was good at it. We had color guards from all branches of the Military, some high school ROTC units and even a Spanish group dressed like soldiers of the 1800s. Our National Anthem performers included Military singers and trumpet players and, everyone’s personal favorite, a 9-year-old girl whose voice would literally blow you away.
That part of Ed’s help was wonderful.
One day Ed showed up at San Antonio Speedway with two remote controlled cars with an idea that we would draw one kids’ ticket each week and that young person could challenge his favorite driver for a race during intermission. That also worked well.
Perhaps it was because Ed had come up with some good ideas that we let on slip past and it proved to be a near disaster.
Each Saturday night race program had a title sponsor, all of them lined up weeks in advance.
One of those sponsors was a national hardware store chain and we were all looking forward to the evening. There were hundreds of giveaways for fans and every store located in the greater San Antonio area had also brought tons of things to hand out to our grateful fans.
Of course, the Energizer Bunny would also be there for the evening. The Bunny, with his ever-present bass drum, would walk the grandstand area between races and be a part of the intermission, as well.
“I have an idea,” Ed told my wife Judy in the days leading up to the race. “I know Henry the Puffy Taco and we could have him here, too.”
Henry the Puffy Taco was a well-known San Antonio mascot and kids loved him. “Henry, Henry,” they’d shout when this person, dressed up like, well, a puffy taco, would entertain.
It didn’t take much convincing before I agreed that Henry would join the Energizer Bunny. The kids would go wild, we thought.
Then, Ed came to us with another idea. He also knew Iggy the Iguana, mascot of the San Antonio minor league hockey team, the San Antonio Iguanas.
“Hey, why not?” I told Ed. “The more the merrier.”
Bad idea. Very bad idea.
All was going smoothly until intermission. Kids had mobbed the Energizer Bunny, Henry the Puffy Taco and Iggy the Iguana as they mingled with the crowd during preliminary races.
Finally, it was time for intermission.
Mind you, the evening’s sponsor was the national hardware chain. The Energizer Bunny was the star attraction that evening. Still, the folks who’d laid out the sponsorship cash agreed that it would be a good idea to have both Henry and Iggy there that evening.
Intermission arrived. The Energizer Bunny began prancing down the track in front of the nearly-filled grandstand, strutting along and beating on his bass drum. That’s when things went sour.
Iggy the Iguana raced up and body-slammed the Energizer Bunny. I guess he thought the racing surface was an ice rink. Maybe that’s what he did during intermission of the hockey games.
The bunny tried to get away, but Iggy kept hitting him with his Iguana paws (if that’s what Iguanas have). I was horrified. That’s when Henry joined in. Henry was a muscular young man under his Puffy Taco garb. He ran to the rescue and tackled Iggy right there in front of everyone.
As quickly as possible, our security – all of whom were off-duty Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputies – stormed the track and escorted Iggy and Henry away.
What would our sponsors think of the whole thing? I imagined impending doom. I imagined they would be irate, maybe even demand the sponsorship money be returned.
I soon learned, however, that the sponsors, just like the fans, thought it was all a part of the show. They liked it. What surely could have been a disaster ended up working out quite well.
I was relieved.
Even though things had turned out well in the end, there was one question I had no intention of ever asking: “Any more ideas, Ed?”