FROSTBURG — In an unusual turn of events, the 43rd annual Frostburg Elks Lodge 470 Derby Day ended in a 10-way tie on Thursday. Due to inclement weather, at 2:42 p.m., derby officials determined that it was best to pause the event with the intention of letting the storm blow past, as it had begun to rain too hard for races to continue.
The call to delay came just in time, no sooner did they pause the race then the sky opened up in a downpour. After weathering the storm for a bit and checking the radar, Dale Iman, one of the derby chairmen, and fellow derby supervisors gathered representatives from the 10 remaining racing teams to deliberate. Perched under a waterlogged canopy on Main Street next to the library, the group came to the decision to call the event a 10-way tie.
The winning derby teams were as follows: Frog Hollow Maple Syrup, Kenney Signs, Jenkins Collision Center, Special Olympics, Snyder & Sons Landscaping, Hunter Douglas Animal Shelter, Seth Wharton Ministries, Breast Cancer Awareness, Fat Boys and Mountain Lodge #099 AF & AM.
However, well before Mother Nature decided to rain on everybody’s parade, there was an actual parade down Main Street prior to the opening of the event, where Keith Harper sang the national anthem. The racers then made their way back up the hill to lock into the starting blocks.
The Fourth of July is about remembering the founding of the United States, so it’s appropriate that Derby Day carried a similar theme. All over downtown Frostburg, one could find families that have participated in Derby Day since its founding, passing the tradition down from generation to generation.
Deidre Waites, who, in 1977, won the first Derby Day despite not having brakes on her car, was there and was the honorary flag waver for her grandson’s first race of the day, which he won. Kycin Waites, her grandson, was driving the car his father, Travis, drove when he placed third in 1997.
“Trying to get it again,” said Waites, sitting in canopy shade. “It makes me happy.”
Elsewhere on the track, Corey and Shane Mathews were busy keeping track of four different cars competing in Derby Day. Younger Mathews family members Easton, Avery, Parker and Rowan were all racing in the event. Just last year, Avery came in first place.
The Mathews family had their grandmother on their minds while participating, as she had grown up in Frostburg and had been to every Derby Day since its founding, but was forced to miss this year. The family said they planned to FaceTime the matriarch at some point during the day so she could still be a part of the day.
Meanwhile, John Snyder was here, there — a little bit of everywhere — during the races, as 16 coaster cars he built were being run in the event. Snyder had two grandsons that got him into it in 1998; since then, he’s been a mainstay. Snyder plays a role in getting the whole thing organized, as well, by going to schools to recruit kids to be drivers.
Snyder said the Breast Cancer Awareness car, in particular, meant a lot to him.
“That car is number 713, we just put it together. It was a car that I had in the garage. I took it out to the collegiate center and got it painted. It’s got Brest Cancer Awareness on it. That’s a special car,” said Snyder. “Sixteen cars, it’s a handful. It’s been fun.”
The event packed Main Street in Frostburg with people and bales of hay, for safety purposes, and was the product of months of effort, said Iman, who, along with his wife, Jan, and fellow volunteers, worked every other Wednesday since January to get the thing in order. There were mandatory trial runs, inspections and everything in between.
“It’s all about the kids. We’ve got 35 racers this year and, of course, every racer has a sponsor, and a sponsor pays the admission fee,” said Iman. “It’s a part of the tradition of Frostburg because we’ve been doing it for so long.”
The admission fee of $160 goes towards organizations that the Frostburg Elks Lodge 470 supports, like the Hoop Shoot and the Martinsburg Veterans Hospital.