Crashing cars is a family tradition for Vermillion family
On July 20, 5-year-old Charlie Meyers drove in his first demolition derby. Although that event, held in Faribault at the Rice County Fair, was more bumper car than demolition, it was Charlie’s first chance to take part in a family tradition of smashin’ and crashin’.
Charlie is the son of Vermillion residents Andy and Kristy Meyers. Andy has been competing in demolition derbies since he was 14, he said. His reason for picking up the hobby was simple: he watched a demolition derby and decided he wanted to try it himself.
Fifteen years later, he’s still smashing his truck at county fairs around the region alongside his younger brother, Danny.
What Andy didn’t know until after he started participating in demolition derbies is that his father, Dave, also had been a demolition derby driver. That was back in the 1970s, before Andy had been born. Now that Charlie is involved too, the family can claim three generations of demolition derby drivers.
For Charlie, a derby event isn’t so complicated. For now, he’s driving a Power Wheels truck and bumping into other similar toy vehicles. Some of his events add balloons to the outsides of the Power Wheels and drivers aim to pop as many balloons as they can by bumping into each other.
Derbies for Andy and Danny are quite a bit more complex. They’re using real trucks and doing real damage to each other’s vehicles, hoping to totally disable them.
Andy has been driving the same truck for the past three years, he said. Although it looks totaled, it still runs, thanks to quite a bit of work between derbies. The most important thing is safety.
“Making sure the cab doesn’t cave,” Andy said, is a big concern.
There’s a cage installed in the cab to keep that very thing from happening. There are other changes that have to be made to a truck as well. If he has to replace the whole truck, he first needs to find one with a strong body, he said. He uses the same motor over and over, so only the shell needs to be replaced.
The inside is completely gutted; he removes the windows, gas tank, passenger seat and everything else that’s not necessary. The doors, hood and tailgate are welded shut, his preferred motor is installed and all the lines are hooked up. The last part is the painting.
Working on his truck has become a time for father-son bonding. Charlie was just 2 years old when he first picked up an impact wrench, Andy said. He was just 7 months old when he attended his first demolition derby. These days, whenever Andy’s out working on his truck, Charlie’s right there with him.
For Kristy, seeing her son learning about the sport from his dad is something of a comfort. Demolition derbies are fun to watch, she said, but she admitted she does worry a bit when she sees her husband out getting smashed into by other vehicles. But she also knows that Andy does everything he can to keep himself protected and safe. With Charlie learning from his dad, she’s confident her son will learn the same safe practices her husband uses, she said.
The local show
Last weekend, Dave, Andy, Danny and Charlie all got to compete on the same day in the Scott County Fair.
Next week, at least Danny and Andy will be driving for their home crowd in the Dakota County Fair. Demolition derby events are scheduled for Aug. 8-9 at the Dakota County Fairgrounds grandstand in Farmington.
For more about the fair and the demolition derby, go to www.dakotacountyfair.org.