A Demolished Derby? Commissioners Receive Suggestions for Improvements

Demolition Derby, June 16 at Fairgrounds

“We can do better and we’d like to try.” That was the general discussion from Cliff Warren and Larry Coberly as they addressed the recent Sand & Sage Demolition Derby with the Prowers County Commissioners, Thursday, June 21. The annual derby was held last Saturday, June 16 at the Prowers County Fairgrounds. Coberly said he had entered the derby this year, and had some issues with the way it was conducted and how the recent derbies had been advertised and conducted in the past.

“I don’t think there was that good a showing, in the stands or by only about 13 entrants, ten cars and three trucks,” Coberly said. He added he also had some issues with the rules and regulations set up by the Kansas promoter regarding the welding categories done on some of the derby cars, but he wasn’t asking the commissioners to act on that. Coberly commented on the different dates that have been scheduled for the derby, “If you keep juggling the dates, you’re going to see more and more poor results because it’s usually been connected with the fair.”

County Commissioner, Gene Millbrand, replied that historically, the derby had been the kickoff event of the county fair, scheduled for the Saturday or Sunday prior to all the events. Millbrand explained it’s the fairboard and not the commissioners that make these decisions regarding schedules and entertainment. He added, “We attend meetings, and help fund the fair, but have no vote.”

Warren suggested that given the past results of the derby, the money was wasted. Warren said, “We’re concerned because it’s the responsibility of the fair board to hire someone to run the derby properly.” Regarding the financial aspect of the fair and derby, Millbrand explained, “We know they don’t break even every time. As of six years ago we now fund ‘X’ dollars and it’s up to the board to turn a profit. The board does a lot of fund raising and other ways to generate revenue that they never did before, so what money was lost was not put on the tax payers.” He added, “The board is good about examining what makes a profit and doesn’t for audience attraction and how to improve it. The last couple of years, their concerts have been very successful.”

He said a lot of decision went into moving the date, going against tradition, as other events apparently were outdrawing the derby. Milllbrand said the hot weather was a factor as well as the financial limitations of a family from having to select just what events they could afford to attend, the rodeo, the fair, carnival, BBQ or the derby. “It seemed to make more sense to spread out that event to another month, so folks could afford to attend then,” he explained.

Commissioner Joe Marble asked both men, “What do you want to do? Do you want to attempt to manage the derby yourselves or bring in another one at some point? The commissioners don’t have any say in this matter.” Coberly said some ideas to improve the derby would be to bring in more outside entries, suggesting that another group handle the organization and promotion. “Years ago, the local Jaycees group used to run a derby, and it was successful, but there was some hesitation because other groups didn’t want to compete against them,” he stated. Coberly suggested that perhaps October, around Halloween, would be an alternative date. Marble said if they wanted to try it, he’d have no problem with renting them the fairgrounds if that was what they wanted. Cliff Warren asked if the board would have any objections to receiving some outside assistance on promotions.

Millbrand said the commissioners would attend the next fairboard meeting. “I’ll have no problem asking them to revisit what they’re doing because some of it isn’t working,” he commented, “One of the problems was a schedule conflict and a date change.” Millbrand stated, “The board has two options as I see it; you can either hold separate events in the year, or join forces, or perhaps the board decides not to hold one and you can do one yourselves.”

By Russ Baldwin

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