'Amazing' Campaign

'Amazing' Campaign

Burke man, brother launch Internet campaign to get picked for ‘The Amazing Race.’

Whether it has meant handing out flyers at a business conference or traveling to Pennsylvania in a groundhog suit, Pete and Chris Magnuson have followed their dream.

After trying once to get picked for the CBS television series "The Amazing Race," Burke resident Pete Magnuson and brother Chris, of Washington, are trying again to make it on screen. This time, however, they have gone beyond the audition tape.

"We didn’t just want to sit around waiting to hear something," said Pete Magnuson, program and communication director at Alexandria-based Association for Career and Technical Education. So the brothers have launched an Internet campaign unlike any they can remember in the history of "The Amazing Race."

"We’ve been doing it a month, and we have 2,500 hits," said Chris Magnuson, who teaches social studies at Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.

According to the Magnusons, the main objective of the Web site is to raise awareness about their quest, and for visitors to send e-mails encouraging CBS to pick Pete and Chris Magnuson. An obvious choice for the site’s domain name, they said, was "www.PickPeteandChris.com."

The Web site lists the top five reasons Pete and Chris Magnuson say they should be picked for the show, such as "Pete and Chris would make great action figures." The site also features their audition video: three minutes of the brothers discussing why they should be picked for the show.

"They feed off each other," said Heidi Magnuson, Pete’s wife. "I think they’d be a lot of fun to watch."

THE MAGNUSONS conducted research and concluded that while other would-be contestants have placed their audition videos on Web sites, no one had a campaign quite like theirs. It began with the brothers sending notices about the site to friends, but grew from there.

"We blasted e-mails to everyone we had in our inboxes and said, ‘Watch the video,’" said Pete Magnuson.

According to Barbara Nophlin, head of the Paul Public Charter School, everyone in the school has gone onto the Web site and sent e-mails to CBS. "It’s a close-knit staff so everyone knows when people are doing things like this," she said. "I hope he wins."

The Magnusons also tried more creative ideas to get the word out. When Pete went to Georgia for work, he handed out homemade flyers and told colleagues about the project. Their brother Brad Magnuson, who works at a Domino’s Pizza in Philadelphia, placed flyers on pizza boxes. Chris Magnuson obtained a groundhog suit and ventured to the Groundhog Day celebration in Punxatawney, Pa. to pass out flyers.

"I had a blast up there," he said. His largest flyer campaign, however, takes place when he travels to Washington with his students for scavenger hunts on Saturdays. While the students are busy with the hunt, he said, he hands out flyers to tourists. The general response, the brothers agreed, has been overwhelmingly positive.

"Once you explain that you’re not selling anything, then people are like, ‘Yeah!’ and they jump all over it," said Pete Magnuson.

THE BROTHERS also took their campaign to the media, with interviews on CBS’ "The Early Show" and WTOP Radio.

"It’s been really interesting," said Pete. "We’ve had quite a few connections … people who work at CBS, people who have been on other reality shows."

Although the "Amazing Race" winning prize is $1 million, the money is a minor incentive for the brothers, as is the fame. Their main incentive for being on the show is the thrill of competition and the chance to have an adventure, said Pete Magnuson, traveling to far-flung locales at a fast pace. The brothers often run urban scavenger hunt races together, he said, and combining travel and competition would be "wild."

"This project is right down [Chris’] alley," said Nophlin. It would be similar to the scavenger hunts he takes with his students on the weekends, she said.

"This is the ultimate adventure," said Chris Magnuson. He and Pete grew up in Washington state, and traveled across the country to Pennsylvania when mother Jill went to school to be a Methodist minister. Pete Magnuson graduated from Syracuse University in New York, but his brother graduated from American University in Washington D.C. and never left the area.

Between them, the brothers have traveled over a good part of the globe. Chris Magnuson first traveled to France when he was 17 and has lived in Brooklyn and Mexico. Before moving to Burke six years ago and having two daughters, Pete and Heidi Magnuson spent a few years teaching in Japan.

"If he got on, it would be amazing. It would be fantastic," said Heidi Magnuson. "I wouldn’t want him to miss out on that opportunity."

The Internet campaign has also helped Chris Magnuson inspire his students.

"I know how much going to France when I was 17 changed my outlook on the world," he said. Watching the show, which would be filmed over the summer, would give the students a glimpse of countries and places few people see, even on TV.

If the brothers manage to get onto the show and win, they will donate some of their winnings to various student travel programs. "The money wouldn’t be life-changing for me, but it could be life-changing for my students," said Chris.

Sitting together at Pete Magnuson's Alexandria office, the brothers reflected on their project.

"What is compelling about this movement is that we’re running the show on our own, by ourselves," said Chris Magnuson.

Pete looked at his brother. "A movement?"

Chris nodded. "Oh, it’s a movement now," he said.