by Marissa Lorenz
If you don’t like fun, friends, family, food, fun and more fun, Kremmling’s 13th Annual Demolition Derby might not be for you. If, on the other hand, you like your fun, friends, family and food served up with a serious side of rowdy, loud exhilaration, you do not want to miss the return of this one-of-a-kind event to be held at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, August 17 at the County Fair Grounds in Kremmling.
The Kremmling Demo Derby began as a passion project in 2005, when then-Fair Board members Rebecca and Will Jones were concerned about the ongoing viability of the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo. “The Fair was really struggling,” Rebecca recalls. “We didn’t know if it would have the ability to keep going.” She says they had tried to incorporate many different events to increase attendance and raise needed funds, such as the Mud Bog Races and tractor pulls, but none were pulling in the crowds necessary to sustain what was, at the time, a 90-year County tradition. A Kremmling native, Rebecca and her husband wanted to do something to change that, and Will had fond memories of participating in demolition derbies when he was a teenager. It seemed worth a try.
Rebecca tells of the success of the first derby, with a single $1,000 purse. But she really credits Paul Jones of Blue Valley Ranch for helping to grow the event in its third year. “He really supported us and taught us how to to take it to the next level.” The extravaganza would continue to grow and, in fact, may have leaped over several levels in its development. For Rebecca and Will it meant the creation of their own event company, GET-SMASHED, LLC, that specializes in similar events. For the Kremmling Demo Derby, it means having had an advertised $25,000 purse for years, reliable financial support from local and regional sponsors, a professional fireworks show, and changing musical and half-time entertainment every year. The sum of all that adds up to a single-evening affair that draws around 1,900 spectators, more than doubling the town’s population for at least one night every August.
The spectacle is actually a series of contests in which drivers deliberately ram vehicles into each other in an adrenaline-pumping, metal-smashing version of bumper cars, leaving the last-one-standing– or moving in derby terms– as the only winner. Four individually judged competitions include full-weld classes for compact, truck, and full-size cars, and a limited-weld class for full-size cars. For extra fun, each class runs a flag race and a theme car contest is held. New this year, a minivan class has been added with its own $1,000 purse. “We didn’t have enough compact car entries last year to actually run that class” Rebecca explains. “We really want to put on a good show and want everyone to get their money’s worth.” So they are trying out the smaller class, with six entrants, as a backup class. In all, she reports about 35 vehicles registered for the competition. “It’s a good number,” she says. “It should be fun.”
The goal of a worthy show is one that seems to be shared by participants as well. “The best is just giving the crowd a good show,” says long-time contestant Scott Weber. “That’s always been the goal. I’m not in it to win it, though everyone could use the money.
But I know it’s expensive for a family to bring their kids, pay the gate fee, and feed them a cheeseburger and pop. What makes me happiest is when those kids get a kick out of it.”
Weber has been an enthusiastic participant in demolition derbies for over 20 years, and says that, “after watching a few of them, it just looked like a lot of fun. I had friends who were willing to help me give it a try, and it just became a fun thing to do.” He will be entering the Compact Class with a 1976 AMC Pacer that he has put “upwards of 200 to 250 hours of work into.”
Similar motivations entice other contestants as well. Kremmling native JD Docheff grew up watching Kremmling’s Demo’s and eventually became interested in driving. “I just love being a driver and being in it,” he says. “And the friends involved… it’s a camaraderie and a family that is just a whole lot of fun.” Docheff will be entering his fourth year at the event with a pre-ran ‘70s GM in the Full-Weld Truck Class that he says he’s “put way too much work into.”
In the spirit of community, many other groups will also be present and adding to the festivities. The Kremmling Preschool will hold its Annual Bouncy Ball Drop, to raise money to support the preschool and its students. The Kremmling Chamber of Commerce has organized the beer garden and the Kremmling Rotary Club will provide concessions under the Grand Stand. The event has become an important fundraising opportunity for all involved, successfully benefiting many more than the originally-intended Fair and Rodeo. “It is an important event for Kremmling,” says Tara Sharp, Kremmling Area Chamber of Commerce Director, who says the event raised about $5,000 for the Chamber last year. “It’s great to get people to recognize that Kremmling is on the map. Every year we see growth in people staying in our lodging, eating in our restaurants and shopping in our businesses.”
Weber also echoes the sentiment, claiming the occasion is “a great draw for Kremmling.” He first came to watch the derby eight years ago, has returned to participate most years since, and moved to the area five years ago. “It’s a big motivator to come here and an economic boost for Kremmling. I have about 60 people coming from Kansas this weekend. I hope it continues to grow.”
In keeping with the promised extravaganza, live music will be provided by The Country Music Project, a 7-piece band that plays “a wide variety of old and new country music.” Two between-show performances will be put on by Candella Collective. The Mad Dog trophy will be awarded to the most aggressive driver, and the evening will close with a bang — the full-scale fireworks show.
“It is really a community effort,” Rebecca claims. “Will and I keep counting how fortunate we are that everyone always comes together to make it happen.” She reports about 25 volunteers that return year after year, helping with marketing, advertising, organization, and more. “We are really blessed.”
Weber thinks gratitude should be had for Rebecca and Will. He suggests you stop and say something if you see them on the street. “They deserve so much credit. The community owes them thanks for so much work and such a great event.”