Custer County Fairgrounds Admin Hopes Compromise Can Be Reached For Demo Derby

CUSTER COUNTY— It has been a number of years since the Custer County Fairgrounds have had a demolition derby, and with the most recent 8-1 vote by the Custer County Ag Society, fans of the sport won’t have to wait any longer.

During their March 11 meeting, a number of board members voiced their support of the event coming to the fairgrounds, but also had concerns regarding debris in the main arena. Custer County Fairgrounds Administrator Michelle Nelson told KCNI/KBBN, that this project has been in the works for some time to make sure every step is being taken for the safety of everyone involved, including animals.

The current plan is to host the demolition derby in the main arena in front of the grand stands which is also home to a number of animal events throughout the year. Nelson said the best place to hold the event is in front of the grandstands which seats 2,280 people.  She also noted when the arena was built, it was built with the idea of being multi-purpose and not just for animal driven events.

“The fairgrounds are here for the 4-H and FFA kids. That is the one purpose of the fairgrounds is to provide fair for those kids. These extra events are added bonus, so we should feel fortunate that we are able to do these extra events and have these nice facilities to be able to do them,” said Nelson.

The added bonus of hosting the demo derby in front of the grandstands is the added protection the concrete structure gives for those in attendance. Regarding attendance, Nelson also said the new event will hopefully bring in a different crowd that may not ever step foot on the grounds without it.

Nelson said, “I am looking to bring events in that the Ag Society can do to get that gate admission fee, plus to bring more of the community out. Right now there are several people in [Custer County] that are tax payers, but have never stepped foot on the fairgrounds because we do not have events out here that they want to come watch.”

An added event would also bring additional income to the Ag Society who only receives gate money from the Mid-States Finals. The Ag Society also took in gate money from last year’s concert during the Custer County Fair, but Nelson said this was the first time in at least four years that the Ag Society had even hosted a concert let alone take gate money for it.

Nelson also noted with the other events that take place throughout the year, the Ag Society only receives money from facility rent and other fees such as stalls, electric hookups, and wood shavings. The gate money taken during the other events go to the organizers.

The biggest concern of the board and those who have contacted the Ag Society and the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce, who is partnering with the Ag Society for the demolition derby, is the debris leftover in the arena. According to Nelson, the plan to make sure there are no car parts includes using a magnet from Myers’ Iron and Salvage that would sweep the area a number of times to pick up the debris.

She also mentioned that the promoter, Gent Bent Promotion, is also very meticulous on making sure the arena is clear of debris before they leave the area no matter how long it takes.

“I’ve talked in detail with the event promoter that would be bringing in this demo derby. He made it very clear to me they have strict rules. Once a car is done they are done. They can’t sit there and smash on each other which would create more parts in the arena. He also told me he has no problems going out and walking the arena with me just to take a fine tooth comb and get that debris out, bring in the magnet, have the magnet go over [the arena], and walk it again. He is not against going out and staying out there until 1, 2, or 3 o’clock in the morning just to make sure, because he understands the concerns as well,” said Nelson.

Patrons of the arena also voiced their frustrations to Nelson, saying they feel the fairgrounds are turning their back on horse people. Nelson said she understands the fear and frustration of those who are concerned, but in the end if additional events are not brought into the fairgrounds, rates will go up.

Nelson said, “I’m not trying to turn my back on them at all, but at the same time, we can’t keep our rates reasonable for our event producers and only do livestock events [at the fairgrounds].”

While there are still details to be finalized regarding the event, according to the website of promoter Gent Bent Promotion, the date for the demolition derby is currently penciled in for June 19, 2021.

Nelson said she is taking all concerns into consideration and also wants to remind everyone that a lot has changed since the demo derby was last at the fairgrounds.

“Give me a chance,” said Nelson. “We have excellent staff out [at the fairgrounds], the Chamber Board is an entire new board. My job I take a lot of pride in. I do care. [The fairgrounds] will still be attractive.”

Nelson said the ultimate decision comes down to the Custer County Ag Society Board, but she is hopeful and prays that a compromise can be reached that everyone will feel comfortable with.

If anyone has any additional questions or comments regarding the demolition derby, hosting events at the fairgrounds, or anything Custer County Fairgrounds related, call (308) 870-2493.