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Evening nearly wrecked: Demo derby saved in the end

Many cars left a June 7 demolition derby unscathed.

Instead of the custom $4,500-$5,500 machines being beaten up and demolished in front of wreckage-crazed fans, the event itself, held at Sterling’s Speed Bowl Park, was scrapped.

Charlie Perrine, a demolition derby promoter, aimed to hold a large event with high payouts to the winners of the four different car classifications. The high payouts were theoretically supposed to bring in many people, but things didn’t go as planned.

“It was pretty much kind of a mess,” said Brick Boss, owner of Boss Roofing and Siding in Rock Falls.

Boss ended up trying to salvage the event after Perrine canceled. Perrine waited as long as he could for the crowd to file in and for more participants to show, but waiting just delayed the inevitable.

A rules official broke the news to the drivers in the pre-race drivers’ meeting that the event would be canceled because there wasn’t enough money to pay the advertised cash prizes for each event.

The event was intended to be large. Around 50 to 60 portable toilets were brought in on that Saturday in anticipation of a large turnout.

But they went largely unused after Perrine was forced to cancel when he was only able to come up with a small portion of the prize money.

“I really believe that he had all the right intentions,” Boss said of Perrine. “He was trying, and honest to God, he had good intentions, but he just didn’t have the money to pull it off.”

The crowd of spectators, and those who hoped to participate and vie for the large advertised cash prizes, grew angry when they learned that Perrine could only offer $50,000 less in cash prizes than what was previously offered.

“Some state troopers were called in, and that kept everybody calm,” Boss said. “There were a lot of angry people. He probably would’ve gotten hurt if they weren’t there. The folks were very upset.”

Perrine was able to raise around $20,000 instead of the advertised $60,000. Of the four classes, each had a grand prize of around $3,000, while a $15,000 prize was offered for the winner of the featured event.

The payouts drew participants from several states around the Midwest, including North Dakota and Minnesota, and most were upset at the cancellation.

Perrine did not return several phone messages seeking comment.

While many packed up their cars and left, Boss, who had given up a weekend on his pontoon boat, still wanted to compete.

Boss, who started his company as a 19-year-old, never promoted any type of event before, and felt compelled to put on a show for those that also planned to compete. He grabbed the microphone and announced that he would be offering prize money to those that were willing to stay.

He estimates about 25 to 30 people stayed to run their cars in the four events to compete for the $1,000 prize that Boss was offering for the winner of each event.

He had about $2,600 in cash in his truck, and asked his girlfriend to get a hold of the remainder of the money that he was prepared to offer.

“It was a 5-minute idea,” Boss said of his urge to take over the event. “I started watching the fans walk out, and I kept telling myself in my mind, ‘Do I do this? Yes, no, yes, no’ ... then I just grabbed the mic and just started talking.

“It was my business’ money. I didn’t do it for the advertisement, I just wanted to see a show and save the weekend.”

About Speed Bowl Park

Opened: 1939

Closed: 1968 after a spectator was killed

Reopened: 2013

Highlights: Have an eighth-mile lawn mower/go-kart track, two 300-foot mud bog pits, and a demo derby track

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