When organizers decided to cancel the grandstand events at this year’s Park County Fair, local derby drivers were upset. Rather than accepting the news and moving on, they decided to get into …
When organizers decided to cancel the grandstand events at this year’s Park County Fair, local derby drivers were upset. Rather than accepting the news and moving on, they decided to get into the business and host their own derby.
“Most of the derbies are canceled. So I made a post on Facebook — just putting it out there to see if anybody would be interested,” said Powell driver Matt Hollenbeck.
He asked if he put on a derby, how many people would come? There were about 100 comments within an hour. Hollenbeck’s initial plan was to do the derby on private property, making it a tailgate event. But then he got a call from former Powell resident Chad Dietz.
The perennial podium favorite was thinking the same thing and had already been in contact with Travis Gillett and other past participants.
“We decided we’d round up our own prize money, rent the fairgrounds and do it ourselves,” Hollenbeck said.
The next call they made was to Don Adams, who has been organizing derbies in Powell for years. Adams agreed to help out with this event, which means the drivers involved in organizing wouldn’t have a conflict of interest by both officiating and participating. The next step was naming the event. They decided on “Smashin’ the COVID Demolition Derby.”
The event is scheduled for the same venue: the Park County Fairgrounds, just one week after the fair. The gates open at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1 with a 6 p.m. start.
It will be a busy weekend for some of the drivers. Despite most derbies being canceled this year, the Basin derby is scheduled for the same weekend. It’ll be a quick turnaround for crews, but several cars are knocked out before they sustain heavy damage and they can be ready to run in less than 24 hours, Hollenbeck said.
“What often knocks you out are little things that you should have taken more time checking,” he said. “You know, like a week driveline or a bad radiator or something like that, or busted off lug nuts or flat tires — things that can be easily fixed.”
Dietz, who’s building a new derby car out of a 1993 Crown Victoria, said having a busy weekend will be a nice change this summer.
“At this point, I think everyone has been cooped up so long there’s going to be quite a bit of enthusiasm,” he said.
Powell’s October derby, Smashtoberfest, will also see a change. The popular event is being moved to Sept. 26 in hopes of better weather for the outdoor venue and to avoid conflicts with hunting season.
As things currently stand, outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than 250 people, unless state health officials grant an exception to the rules. However, it’s possible that the COVID-19-related restrictions will be eased by August.