A plethora of lawn mowers invaded Wapakoneta Saturday along with a large contingent of enthusiastic drivers to operate them.
The 15th annual K & R Lawn Mower Derby attracted a huge crowd behind the Knights of Columbus Hall in Wapakoneta. Approximately 700 people attended the event, roughly the same number as last year’s event, and the 54 mowers entered were the largest number of entries the event has attracted yet. The event is hosted by Jeremy Resor and Chad Kantner.
Kantner said that he first got the idea for the event approximately15 years ago.
“We were playing cards at a buddy’s house,” Kantner said. “I told them about a dream I had of us being in a demolition derby with riding lawn mowers. They thought I was crazy. Yet here we are.”
The event is held as a fundraiser and goes towards a variety of local needs.
“We make a variety of donations to people in need in the area,” Kantner said. “Just recently, we donated money to some friends that had their house burnt down. At the end of the year, we take whatever is left in the checkbook to the fair and empty it at the livestock auction.”
When the smoke cleared and the last challenge was held, Dylan Steineke emerged as this year’s winner. His brother, Cole Steineke, was runner-up. Cory Luedeke, of New Bremen, just 12-years-old, finished third.
Luedeke said the event gave him a thrill like he has never had.
“It was exciting,” Luedeke said. “I was nervous, scared and anxious all at the same time. Sill it was a lot of fun.”
Luedeke suffered a minor injury during the event and was treated by emergency medical personnel during the event, but the accident did not deter him one bit.
“It was my first time,” Luedeke said, “but I’m going to do it again next year.”
While one of the event’s attractions to riders is a certain element of danger, rules are put in place to make the event relatively safe. Mowers are restricted to a 36 1/2-inch hood height, and the mowers cannot be reinforced. Gas tanks and batteries must be secure, and purposely hitting the sides of other mowers is restricted due to possible injuries of legs being exposed.
Firefighters from Buckland and EMTs from New Knoxville were on hand to handle injuries and fuel spills. Competitors are stopped in event of fuel spills, overturned mowers or riders falling off their mowers.
Another rider, Ryan Wierwille of St. Marys, agreed that the event was a lot of fun. Wierwille was part of A New Knoxville-St. Marys team, affectionately calling themselves the “Brew Crew,” that entered 14 mowers in the event.
“It was a lot of fun,” Wierwille said. “It is crazy out there. I flipped my mower once but I wasn’t to worried. It was relatively safe out there.”