Last one riding

Staff Writer
Sixty-four lawn mowers took to the ring in different heats — fighting to be the one is left standing — resulted in a record day.
The event set records in participants and money raised for the 13th annual K & R Lawnmower Derby held for local charities. The event raised $11,800 and 64 mowers participated in the event held at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds.
“It just gets bigger and bigger every year,” said Jeremy Reser, one of the event’s organizers.
Reser said the event started several years ago as just an idea for a few friends to get together and have some fun. The group of friends decided to turn it into a charity event, and through its 13 years it has now grown to an event that drew more than 800 spectators on Saturday.
The event had been held on the grounds at the Wapakoneta Knights of Columbus Hall until this year when it was moved to the Auglaize County Fairgrounds.
Reser said the move paid off.
“It was a lot easier getting in and out and there was plenty of parking,” Reser said. “Gary Leppla and Fred Piehl with the fairgrounds were a lot of help.”
The participants came from Allen, Shelby, Auglaize, Mercer and Van Wert counties, including Mike Barnes, of Buckland, who has been in all 13 derbies.
Sam Greve, of St. Johns, took home first place in the final event
while Jarrod Bower, of New Knoxville, and Randall Springer, of Buckland, took second and third place, respectively.
A.J. Etzkorn, of Wapakoneta, who attended the event for five years, decided to give it a try this year for the first time. He successfully advanced to the second round while participating in the third heat.
“It’s a competition for bragging rights,” Etzkorn said, “and it all goes to charity. It looked like a good time and I decided to do it just for fun.”
Aaron Maxson, of Wapakoneta, said he participated in the event for eight years and did so again this year.
“It is all about having a good time,” Maxson said. “All the money is going for a good cause and goes back into the community.”
Reser said the funds will be distributed to deserving charities selected by the committee. Charities helping others in need such as autism, equestrian therapy and midget football have been among recipients in the past.
The group also purchases livestock during the Auglaize County Fair each year. The group has already donated $400 to the Wapakoneta Boy Scouts for helping clean up after the event and plans to donate $500 to Jordyn Nuss. The event organizers recently learned that Nuss had asked friends and family members to bring toys and toiletries to donate to St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., instead of birthday presents to her birthday party in September.
“Those are the kind of people we try to get donations to,” Reser said. “It is amazing to see people take initiative and try to help.”
Reser said they will begin preparing next year’s event soon.
“We are now getting big enough where we will have to start the event earlier,” Reser said.