ALPENA - Though it starts and ends with the business of local livestock, the Alpena County Fair would not be complete without the spectacle of battered jalopies roaring through the mud.
Wednesday's bump-and-run and tonight's demolition derby are traditionally among the fair's most attended events, and event coordinator Bari MacNeill expects this year to be no different. MacNeill, who has helped the fair board organize the events for the past eight years and has been involved for longer than that, anticipated a turnout for Wednesday's bump-and-run approaching or exceeding the Alcona County Fair's 40 cars last week. He said many of them are locals, but others come from Bay City, Gaylord, Cheboygan, and other communities around the state to compete in what has become for them an anticipated experience.
"We started with the derbies. The demolition derby was always part of the fair back when I was in high school, back in the '70s and '80s, and then the bump and runs have come into existence probably in the late '80s and early '90s. It's taken right off," he said. "We have a set amount of laps - eight, 10, 12, I let the guys vote on how many laps they want to go - for the heats, and then we have a feature heat for all the heat winners, and they set the amount of laps that they want to run, and the object isn't to smash cars, it's to finish the laps first. For the most part, the cars get a little wrinkled up, but a lot of these guys will take these cars and run them for a whole summer."
News Photo by Andrew Westrope
Randy Roznowski stands next to the Alpena County Fair Board’s bump-and-run car at the Alpena County Fairgrounds on Wednesday. Roznowski won a raffle on Tuesday for the chance to drive the car and compete in the race for $1,200.
MacNeill said he was too busy this year to enter the competitions himself, but the fair board threw its hat in the ring by preparing its own car for Wednesday's bump-and-run and selling $5 raffle tickets for the chance to drive.
"Just to kind of help promote the event," he said. "We've done it in past years, other people have done it. The fair board did it this year because they're going to take part of the money toward their organization, just to help make money and help promote it and keep things rolling."
The winner, announced on Tuesday during the Josh Gracin concert, was Randy Roznowski, a seasoned bump and run driver with 36 years of experience under his belt and trophies to show for it. Roznowski said the raffle offered him a way into the competition for which he was too busy to prepare.
"I worked out of town most of the time. I wanted to put a car together, and I didn't have time to do it, so I thought, when this one went throught the parade, 'Enter for that,'" he said. "(My wife) won some tickets on the radio, and I bought some in Lincoln last week."
Though enticed by the prospect of winning $1,200 in prize money, he said his only motivation was the promise of fun.
"It's the first time I've done it in a couple years now. I'm excited for it. I'm going to have a good time," he said before the race on Wednesday. "I'm just out to have a good time. Winning's an option."
MacNeill also teased tonight's demolition derby as one the audience may remember.
"We should have a pretty good derby," he said. "Probably one of the best derbies we've seen in a long time. Just a lot of hard hitting. The intention of that is to smash the cars."
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693.