WAPAKONETA — More than 60 demolition derby enthusiasts gathered at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds on Saturday to see whose lawn mower could cause the most destruction, all while raising money for charitable organizations.
The 20th-annual K&R Lawn Mower Demolition Derby featured 65 participants, each driving an old riding mower around a dirt track. The competition works like a typical demolition derby, with drivers trying to cause damage to each other’s mower.
Shawn Barnes, secretary of the committee that organizes the event each year, said the competition has grown exponentially.
“We started out in a guy’s backyard with 10 or 15 mowers, then we went to the [Knights of Columbus] Hall before we outgrew that, and now we’re here,” Barnes said. “It just keeps getting bigger.”
Barnes said more than 600 people turned out for this year’s derby, which starts in the afternoon and runs late into the evening. Barnes said this competition drew more participants and patrons than last year, which he said is a sign that the event continues to grow.
“It’s not a super expensive event, and I think everybody knows all the money we gather goes back into the community, so I think that’s the biggest reason why it keeps growing,” he said.
Entry fees and sponsorships from local businesses ensure the competition generates a large amount of money each year. Barnes said they have not calculated how much money was raised at this year’s derby, but he said it typically averages in the thousands.
“I know we spent roughly $4,500 at this year’s fair for the 4H kids — helping them with their animal projects and whatnot,” he said.
Along with 4H clubs, the event raises money for a variety of other organizations, such as the FFA, veterans groups, the local Special Olympics and families in need.
“We try to benefit everybody that we can in the local community,” Barnes said.
Nate Preston, a Wapakoneta resident who was participating in his second lawn mower derby, said the charitable aspect of the competition is one of the reasons he decided to return to the event.
“It’s a great way to give back to the community and also have a good time,” Preston said. “K&R does a lot of good for the charities in our community.”
Sponsorships and admission prices raise the most money, but Barnes said each driver also forgoes cash prizes in order to generate even more money for the organizations K&R donates to. Instead of cash, the top three drivers receive medals.
“At the driver’s meeting we ask if everybody wants to donate money back, and every year for the last 20 years they’ve donated it right back,” he said. “It shows that we have a great community.”
Todd Edmiston, a Shawnee Township resident who has participated in the derby for the last seven years, summarized why he loves the event.
“What’s better than a bunch of hillbillies getting together and crashing up mowers?” he asked. “It’s a blast.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima