Alexandra Heck and Phil McLachlan
Free Press Staff
Despite the area being on high alert for fires, the Lions Club Demo Derby went off without a hitch.
An estimated 4,000 spectators came out to the derby grounds to see old cars and trucks face off in dog fight battles for the winning title.
“We had to comply with the fire marshal with all the closures,” said Chuck Shoesmith, an organizer with the Lions Club.
He said that volunteers cut the grass short around the grounds as a precautionary measure, and kept people off of the hill at the site, which falls under Crown land that is currently closed.
“This is the single most attended event of the year,” said Shoesmith, who thinks more spectators came out to the event because of the trail closures, which ultimately raised over $60,000.
Fernie Fire chief Ted Ruiter says that given the fire situation in the province currently, the fire department took extra precautions in order to allow the event to continue.
“We decided to have some communication in that regard with the Lions Club, just to make sure we have everything covered,” he said.
Spectators were kept to the grandstands near the track, and emergency crews kept a vigilant eye.
“We’ve had the area soaked down appropriately,” he said, noting that they cordoned off designated smoking areas, as well as had mandatory spotters in the pit. “Just an awareness out there, a presence.”
The afternoon of raucous destruction ended off with a nail biting final round, where two cars kept the crowd on the edge of their seats.
Both vehicles stalled, leaving it impossible to judge the winner until number 22 resurrected, just before the final horn blew.
“It was a hard fought battle,”said Rick Reid, from Sparwood. “It all worked out, sometimes you get lucky.”
Reid has won the derby many times before, and says the key is having a good engine and cooling system, lots of hard work and dedication.
“I came here with nothing and made my way up the ranks,” said Reid, who ran three races prior and is wrapping up for the year.
“It’s really nice to see people so happy,” said Shoesmith, explaining how grateful he was for the fire department’s assistance in allowing the event to go on. “It’s our redneck tradition, our history is showing through.”