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Scheduling conflicts, decreasing participants moves Demolition Derby to end of July

The Demolition Derby will now take place July 30 at the Stark County Fairgrounds in Dickinson, instead of being a part of the Fourth of July weekend that ties into Roughrider Days.

Two cars clash into one another as an official watches from the sidelines in a demolition derby.
Two cars clash into one another as an official watches from the sidelines during the 50th Demolition Derby at the Stark County Fairgrounds July 4, 2021, during the 50th Roughrider Days Fair and Expo Events. The Roughrider Commission announced that the 2022 Demolition Derby will take place July 30, outside of the Fourth of July weekend.
Contributed / Jeremy Schmidt

DICKINSON — For almost 35 years, the Demolition Derby has been an historic part of Roughrider Days in Dickinson, ending the two-week-long festivity with a packed grandstand of more than 2,000 people. This year, the Roughrider Commission has decided to move the Demolition Derby from the Independence Day weekend to the end of July due to scheduling conflicts with the concert and the decreasing number of derby participants.

The Roughrider Commission announced its date change in a Jan. 18 Facebook post , stating, “As we looked at our previous Demolition Derby’s and that the number of participants had been decreasing over the years, we knew we needed to try something different.”

The 51st Demolition Derby will now take place July 30 at the Stark County Fairgrounds.

Over the years, the Demolition Derby typically attracted a crowd anywhere between 2,000 and 2,200. That number has dropped in the past couple of years by about 500 people, Stark County Fairgrounds Coordinator Lisa Heiser said, adding that the number of cars has also decreased. Before, the Roughrider Days drew in 35 to 40 cars. Now, the derby usually gets 15 to 18 cars.

“I mean it really just has dwindled down to a point where they’ve needed to make a change,” Heiser said.

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In order to draw in a larger audience, the Roughrider Commission agreed that having the Demolition Derby over the Fourth of July weekend was not compatible with years past.

“... We believe this will draw more participants and in turn put on a better overall show for our spectators. We are excited to try something new and to make the derby better. After this year, we will re-evaluate our decision on the date,” the Facebook post read.

Roughrider Days is also heavily focused on various 4-H events from Tuesday through Thursday at the fairgrounds, which also poses a scheduling conflict for the concert and the derby, Heiser continued. Usually, the concert takes place on Friday. However, it’s been difficult for the concert crews to set up the stage the morning of because it typically takes 7 to 8 hours to complete, she said, adding that having the concert on Saturday will relieve that issue.

Another reason to push the Demolition Derby to the end of July is due to the busy Independence Day weekend, where several participants are already scheduled in other derbies. This proved to be a setback for the Roughrider Commission to acquire as many participants as it could, Heiser noted.

“They were hoping that this new date would be something that would work really well for them to bring something to the community that more people could attend and have a better show of it too,” she said.

IMG_8473.JPG
Cars slam into one another during the 50th Roughrider Days Demolition Derby on July 4, 2021, at the Stark County Fairgrounds in Dickinson.
Contributed / Jeremy Schmitt

This will be the first year to see whether the move will be beneficial, Heiser noted.

“The worst part for me is to try to schedule a date that it fits into… because originally they wanted to do it on an August date and I had no dates available for them because they had chosen to make a date change so late in the program, and I'm just booking up so fast a year ahead of time at the facility. So that's probably the hardest part,” Heiser said, adding, “I think it's going to be a really good move for them and I actually like that not everything is piled up on one week because the Roughrider Commission puts on five-event days — three of those being the rodeo. And when you have to cram it all into one simple little timeframe, it doesn't work for a lot of people that travel or want to go on vacations at that time, and then they miss out. So I think it's kind of a good thing that they've moved it and I believe it'll be… it's going to be a wonderful date for them.”

Heiser said she believes that moving this derby to a different date will attract a larger audience. As tourism increases during summer whether they’re traveling through southwest North Dakota or vacationing in Medora, families are always looking for something to do — especially with rodeos and derbies, Heiser said, explaining that she receives much of that feedback via text messages, emails and Facebook Messenger. Heiser even had a family from New York reach out to her about local events.

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The Fourth of July weekend is one of the busiest weekends in the year for some families and they might have other plans.

“... I find that it is actually something that they're looking for, not just rodeo events, and I think some of these monster truck events. This year, we've also got a motocross jumping event, and that event, I think, is very sought after for some of the things that we're doing other than just livestock or rodeo events,” she said. “So I think it's going to be well attended and I think as long as they're advertising really well, and making sure everybody knows it's going to be kind of similar to the carnival. Moving the carnival that has been historically in one spot and moving that out to the fairgrounds is going to be a big thing for us too this year. And so, I think the community will be well attended and make sure that they support it so that these guys know they've made a good move.”

The 51st Roughrider Days Fair and Expo Events will begin June 18 with the Youth Rodeo. For more information visit, roughriderdaysfair.com .

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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