JOHN DAY - The 19th annual Demolition Derby sponsored by the Whiskey Gulch Gang was yet another huge success, drawing 32 cars and a capacity crowd to the arena at the Grant County Fairgrounds on July 21.
The action got under way with the fast-paced Texas Barrel Race. The driver of car No. 32, Dustin Berry of John Day, completed the cloverleaf pattern in the fastest time to steer his way to $140 first-prize check.
Ray Corwin of Pilot Rock was the winner of the drivers' door prize: a portable instant jump start unit donated by Nydam's Ace Hardware. The winning entry was drawn at the drivers' meeting held just before the start of the evening's festivities.
Ironically, Corwin, a rookie, competed in the Texas Barrel Race but was unable to get his car restarted to enter the arena for the introductions or compete in the rookie heat due to a bad starter. He was able to get his starter rebuilt in time to enter into a later heat.
Grant County Fair and Rodeo Queen Madi Anspach presented the American Flag during the opening ceremonies and Jamie (Wyllie) Lupien was on hand to lead the spectators in the singing of the national anthem.
The cars and drivers, along with their sponsors, were introduced one-by-one and the trophy for the best-looking car was shared by a pair of cars decorated in patriotic red, white and blue, and driven by Ray Corwin of Pilot Rock and Forrest Rhinehart of Pendleton.
Seven cars entered the arena for the rookie heat, an event for first-time drivers. Outlasting the pack and taking home the trophy and $250 was Kevin Moles of Canyon City, who drove a 1977 Ford LTD.
Michael Westlake of John Day was the winner of Heat 1, driving a 1979 Lincoln Continental.
A 1973 Chevy Impala driven by Levi Tyler of Burns won Heat 2. Cody Frazier of John Day won Heat 3 in his 1970 Dodge.
Each of the heat winners took home a $250 check and a trophy.
During the intermission before the main event, Scott Wells and Luke Claughton of Canyon City kept the crowd entertained, as they each drove older Dodge motorhomes into the arena for a fresh new look at the world of Demolition Derby. The two lined up nose-to-nose before backing away from one another to make an opening side pass.
When the awning was torn off Claughton's vehicle, the crowd rose to its feet. The next 10 minutes or so had the audience riveted as pieces of the motorhomes were scattered within the confines of the wood logs placed around the arena. Even a holding tank from inside one of the motorhomes was among the debris.
When the action wound down, Claughton was deemed the winner as Wells was unable to get his Dodge motor running. The two had as much fun driving as the crowd did watching this first-time event for the Grant County Derby.
With the debris cleaned up, 26 of the 32 original cars were able to limp back in for the finale. When the smoke and steam cleared, the first-place trophy and a check for $1,500 was awarded to Rudy Morris of Cornelius, driving a 1972 Pontiac Catalina. The second-place trophy and $1,000 went to Robert Ake of John Day, who drove a 1974 Ford Gran Torino. Clinton Tyler of Burns took home third place and $500, driving a 1972 Cadilac DeVille.
Levi Tyler of Burns was awarded the Most Aggressive Driver and took home the barbecue donated by John Day True Value.
Lindsey Wyllie was the announcer for the Derby and the music and sound system was provided by Randy Moles of John Day.