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Smith wins ‘Ford Fling’ on 3rd attempt

For Connie Smith, the third time proved to be the charm as she won a 2009 Ford F-150, the “Ford Fling” grand prize, at Moore-Stewart Ford on Saturday.

“I’m blank,” said Smith. “I’m just happy. I’ve never won nothing before. Then, something comes along free, you win it.”

It was her third time to participate in the contest, but she almost missed her chance to claim the prize. She was hospitalized early Saturday with a case of dehydration, but did manage to find a suitable backup to fill her stead — the brother, Milton McCormick, of her son-in-law, Billy McCormick.

Milton McCormick, like the other 199 Ford Fling participants, paced around and listened intently, hoping Smith’s name would not be drawn from the hopper.

The three-day reverse-elimination contest trimmed its ranks by 50 over each of the previous two days, and the field was down to 50 by noon Saturday. Each person called was eliminated from the rung for the big prize, but did not leave empty-handed. All 200 contestants automatically received a combo deal from Jack’s, and despite the disappointment of elimination, each left with a gift certificate from one of 50-75 businesses, a CD from Dixie 100, an item from Pepsi or a similar prize.

When the field was narrowed to 15, McCormick was still in the running. Little did he know, Smith was on her way.

Three days of elimination boiled down to the final two — McCormick and Jenny Criswell. When Criswell’s name was pulled from the hopper, McCormick clapped his hands, raised his arms and embraced Billy McCormick.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Milton McCormick. “I just want to drive it around the parking lot, at least one time.”

As Smith’s daughter, Kathy Collins, frantically attempted to get in touch her mother, Smith pulled up to the dealership.

According to dealership co-owner Todd Stewart, the Ford Fling started in 1995 as a means of promoting the dealership. Another local dealer’s promotion inspired Stewart to do one for his own.

“I just wanted to get my name out there too, and it was just, ‘Hey, let’s give a car away. How do we do it,’” said Stewart.

He got together with radio station WDXX, aka “Dixie 100,” owner Mike Reynolds, and they brainstormed the promotion. Fifteen years and a recession later, it’s going stronger than ever.

“The number of people that have said it’s their first time to play, unbelievable,” said Dixie 100 Director of Promotions Carolynn Rowell. “And that may be because of the recession. It may have brought people out to play contests and games that maybe would not have done so.”