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Demolition derby back on for 2024 La Plata County Fair

Event will take place in Ignacio to work around liability concerns at fairgrounds
Some of those involved with the demolition derby ran a float in the Snowdown Light Parade on Feb. 2 asking for support to “bring back the demolition derby.” (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Demolitionists, start your engines. And then prepare to have them smashed.

The annual demolition derby at the La Plata County Fair, which had been in jeopardy, is back on. The event will be held this year at the Sky Ute Fairgrounds in Ignacio.

The fair board turned to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe as it become increasingly clear that La Plata County commissioners would not allow the event to take place at the fairgrounds owned by the county.

In September, county officials informed the fair board that the annual blockbusting smash-em-up event would not be permitted to take place citing liability concerns. The county does not run the fair, but it does rent the fairgrounds property to the independent organization that holds the event.

Organizers and derby participants were outraged by the decision. The event is one of the largest sources of income for the fair. Fair Board President Amy Peterson estimated the event raked in about $30,000 last year and said that without it, the fair’s future could be in jeopardy.

And so it was with great joy that fair board members are celebrating the revival of the derby.

Although the board is still hammering out the final details of a contract, organizer Tiffany Griffith said she is looking forward to holding the event again.

“It's just a staple to our fair, and so the thought of that not happening – it just didn't sit well with many of us,” she said.

No, the derby will not be held at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. But the event is happening during the fair, in La Plata County.

The new location comes with its own upsides and downsides.

Although the event will not occur at the site of the other fair activities, the Ignacio location does add capacity for about 400 additional seats to the typically sold-out event.

“We get lemons, we make lemonade out of it,” said Ralph Brawley, a longtime organizer and supporter of the derby.

County commissioners had raised concerns about holding the event in a mixed-use arena and what risk that could pose to livestock and spectators. Ultimately, officials decided the potential liability that taxpayers would assume was too great a risk to take.

Although Brawley still feels the decision has not been adequately explained, he too expressed optimism about the future of the event.

“The derby will continue because we have a great following, a bigger venue, (and) hopefully we make more money,” he said.

The event will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, with beer and food for sale per usual. To fill the hole left in the schedule at the county fairgrounds on Saturday, when the derby is typically held, Griffith said she is hoping to secure a lumberjack show involving chain saw carving.

Despite the move, Griffith remains hopeful the event will be a success.

“I'm optimistic that we're going to have a full house because every year, we tend to sell out anyway,” she said. “… I'm confident that it'll still be another sold out event at a bigger place (with) better parking.”


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