by Jim Boyle
Six spectators of the Sherburne County Fair’s demolition derby became participants thanks to the Smash and Crash raffle.
“They did a great job,” said Roger Kostreba, one of the organizers of the special derby event.
Kostreba agreed that the amateur cast of drivers provided some of the best hitting of the night.
Ken Miller, of Elk River, won the Smash and Crash match and claimed the accompanying $500 cash prize.
A jubilant Miller admitted afterward that partway through the derby contest — when his car stuck to another and was throwing off steam from a blown radiator — he thought he was done.
But another hit later sprang him free and he found the mojo to continue until the end when he and a last remaining challenger could no longer move.
Miller got the last hit, so he was declared the winner when second-place finisher, Dan Leabch, of Foley, timed out.
Ed Peterson, of Nowthen, took third place.
“I thought I got the last hit,” he said. “I was sure glad when I found out I did.”
Miller drove a station wagon for the event, the only Ford in an otherwise all Chevy event. He bought only one raffle ticket, while others tried to win a derby steering wheel by purchasing multiple tickets.
The fair sold tickets for $10 apiece each day of the four-day event from July 18-21 for the chance to drive one of six demo-derby ready vehicles and a shot at the top prize of $500.
Six raffle tickets were drawn at 7:30 p.m. during the July 21 demo, and winners were called down to the track.
They suited up, waited out a few heats and were turned loose to the roar of the Sherburne County Fair crowd that cheered them on.
“That was a lot of fun,” Miller said.
(Editor’s note: Wayne Matteson contributed to this report.)