More than 700 people attend demolition derby at Montcalm County 4-H Fair

Posted by Lonnie Allen • Last Updated 10:21 am on Monday, July 02 2012

Greenville residents and brothers Donald Marsh, left, and Dennis Marsh fist bump each other in front of their cars before the races begin on Saturday. — Daily News/Lonnie Allen

MONTCALM TOWNSHIP — The grandstand dirt was moved, corners were shaped and more than 4,0000 gallons of water were spread on the track to prepare for Demolition Derby events Saturday evening at the Montcalm County 4-H Fair.

Pierson resident and event organizer Jim Trollard was busy preparing for show.

“It is our eighth year putting on shows,” Trollard said. “We have a lot of competitors from all over the place here tonight.”

More than 700 people were in the grandstand despite the heat, as the smell of fuel permeated throughout the pits. The crowd listened to motors rumble and as the dust and mud began to fly, cheers roared from the spectators as the Off-Road Derby, Garden Tractor Derby, Burn-Out competition and Demolition Derby itself entertained from 7 to 11 p.m.

Mike McGonigal, fair board president, seemed to be satisfied with the turnout Saturday evening. It is the second year the fair has moved the derby event to Saturday because it is easier for the rodeo and staff.

“We switched the derby and rodeo nights,” McGonigal said. “The derby requires a lot of dirt to be moved. It is also easier for the drivers to come on a Saturday rather than Friday because of work conflicts during the week.”

Donald Marsh, 30, of Greenville, emerges from his rolled-over vehicle during the Small Car Off-Road derby. — Daily News/Lonnie Allen

Competitors from all over Michigan were there to participate in one of the four derby events sponsored by Unique Motor Sports. However, the event means more to Greenville brothers Dennis and Donald Marsh who made sure they enter the derby at this fair. It is because of their father, Dennis Marsh Sr., who died who of a rare disease, that the two brothers have been so involved with derby racing.

“It was my dad that got me excited about off road racing,” Dennis said. “I started young in the garage watching him work on the car and get it ready.”

They even pay tribute to their father’s car No. 55. Donald uses the number 555 on his cars and Dennis uses the number 5 on his cars when participating in derbies.

“I do what I can do to keep 55 going and I have not missed one,” Dennis said. “This is my 20th year straight derby racing in our hometown, we do this for our dad.”

Their father was diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension in 1998. Grant resident Fran Marsh said the disease is rare and hereditary.

“I don’t know if the boys have it,” she said “But what they do here is a way to raise awareness about the importance of organ donors.”

Competitors smash each other’s vehicles in the attempt to be the only car still running during the Demolition Derby on Saturday during the Montcalm County 4-H Fair. — Daily News/Lonnie Allen

Donald can remember going to the old grandstand and watching his father in the No. 55 car smash away during the demolition derby while his mother announced during the derby.

“Mom used to be the main announcer for the derby,” Donald said. “Ever since I was little kid I can remember going and watching dad being part of the regular demolition derby.”

The derby means a lot to this family who thank their sponsors for helping them keep their father’s memory alive.

“You know, I may not win tonight,” Dennis said. “But if it wasn’t for Hollenbeck’s, Fearshot and O’Reillys Auto Parts we wouldn’t have made it this year.”

Donald participates in the Small Car Off-Road Derby and Dennis in the Big-Off Road Derby.

“Off road derbies are the big thing now,” Donald said. “I used to do the figure eight derby when I first started but they don’t do that one anymore.”

Both the Marsh brothers rolled their cars during their particular derby race. But for Donald he will try again on the Fourth of July in Sand Lake. He said he has finished repairing his car windshield and rear part of the vehicle for the race.


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