Keeping the Derby on Course

The new generation of Elks, members Brandt Selent (with hat) and Austin Carruthers, with one of their Demolition Derby cars.Story by Patricia MerrickPhotos by Kurtis Kristianson

Finding younger volunteers to help organize events that are decades old can often be challenging. That’s not the case with the Crossfield Elks Club, however, which gained two young members in recent years.

Twenty-two-year-old Brandt Selent said joining with his longtime friend, Austin Carruthers, was the obvious thing to do.

“Both our dads were Elks members – and are Elks members – for a number of years now and we both grew up volunteering and doing a lot of stuff with the Elks, so it was kind of a no-brainer that when we turned 18, we both wanted to join and give back to the community,” Selent said.

Selent and Carruthers are in charge of organizing the Club’s largest event of the year – the Demolition Derby. The popular 18-plus event takes place during the Crossfield Rodeo Society’s annual Pete Knight Days at the Crossfield Rodeo Grounds in June. The Demolition Derby includes food trucks and a beer garden.

“People build old cars into demolition cars and go into the arena that we have set up and smash the cars together until the last car running is the winner,” Selent said. “I enjoy planning it. It’s kind of cool seeing the crowds that show up to watch the Demolition Derby, support the community and bring everybody together. The fun everybody has makes it really worth it.”

The Club donates the money raised from the derby to minor sport organizations in Crossfield, as well as to scholarships and athletic grants through W.G. Murdoch School. Unfortunately, the Elks Club was forced to cancel the Demolition Derby in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“The derby is our number one fundraiser. It brings in the most money for the Elks and so it’s just really important for us to have that show go on because the more money that we raise through the derby means more money that we can give back to the community,” he said. “It’s good to give back and make sure that the community prospers, and that people who are less fortunate than I am get the help that they might need."

"I grew up playing sports and I feel like sports developed me as a person hugely and I’d like to be able to help other people have those opportunities.”

Carruthers received a scholarship from the Elks Club himself when he was in high school and said he enjoys giving back to the community through the Club.

“I like putting on a show for people. It gives people something to do and gets our town recognized,” he said. “It’s kind of a nice feeling that you get when you can help. There’s one girl in town and she’s in a wheelchair and she struggled getting in her house so we helped donate to build a ramp and make her house fully wheelchair accessible. That’s why I like doing it.”

It takes all Club members to plan the Demolition Derby but Selent and Carruthers have taken the reins on the time-consuming task.

“All the guys – like my dad and Austin’s dad – are all starting to want to pass it on to younger guys coming in now so they don’t have to put as much work into it,” Selent said. “Being a part of the Elks is great, too, because you know that you’ll get a helping hand if you need it and it feels good to give a helping hand wherever you need to, too.”