Ogden’s 4th of July will rock

Thursday , June 26, 2014 - 3:41 PM

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By AMY NICHOLSON

Standard-Examiner correspondent

Perhaps we should replace apple pie in “as American as apple pie” with the words “demolition derby.”

The hottest attraction at Ogden’s annual celebration, Hot Rock’n 4th, is the demolition derby, drawing more than 10,000 spectators each year.

It is hosted by Stirrin’ Dirt Racing, owned by Johnny Gullo, of Ogden, and Jim “Gumby” Simko, of Salt Lake.

“We have been doing the demolition derby at the Hot Rock’n 4th since it started 14 years ago,” Gullo said.

He believes it is a perfect fit because it is a wholly American sport that is popular across the nation.

“Number one, the demolition derby is a United States-born sport,” Gullo said. “So, it ties in very well with the national holiday.”

This year, 48 car drivers and 12 truck drivers, hailing from states across the United States and parts of Canada, compete for $34,000 in prize money.

“The Mad Dog award goes to the most aggressive, crowd pleasing driver. It is even more coveted than first place,” Gullo said. “Utah and its surrounding states have, by far, the craziest drivers out there.”

With just one rule, to not hit another driver’s door, anything is bound to happen.

“All ages, from the grandparents to the kids and everyone in between, come out to watch,” Gullo said. “It is very addictive. It is the anticipation of the crash and here you have a hit every 10 seconds. It is just total destruction.”

Throughout the day, there is live music, a classic car show, bounce houses and bungee trampolines included in the admission price. Food is available for purchase.

According to event coordinator Natalie Summers, of Ogden, food vendors sell hot dogs, hamburgers, Navajo tacos, nachos, churros, snow cones, kettle corn, cotton candy and more.

A trailer filled with mud, circulating through the event, gives attendees an opportunity to dive for prizes. Names are selected by drawing for a chance to scoop through the sticky substance in search of poker chips labeled with winnings.

“The grand prize is an ATV donated by XTM Motor Sports,” Summers said. “There are also gift certificates to places like Classic Fun Center, Flowrider, iRock and Get Air. There is a laptop and some oil changes and car washes. There are a couple of big things and some smaller things. It’s funny to watch.”

Ogden band Two Weeks Notice will play classic two-hour rock sets beginning at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“Everybody loves them,” Summers said. “People can just chill out in the shade, eat some food, listen to the music and watch the kids play. A lot of people come for a few hours, go home, and come back in the evening for the demolition derby.”

Not only is the event a good time, it is for a good cause.

“It is a great community event and it is good for the charities,” Summers said. This year, 400 to 500 volunteers representing 10 local charities will participate. The volunteers are reimbursed $10 per volunteer hour.

“It is a lot of people who give up their holiday for something they believe in,” she said.

When it comes to the crowds who flock to the event, Summers believes entertainment and relaxation are part of the draw, but there is more to the story.

“There is such a pride in being an American, especially since 9/11,” she said. “We have so many troops from our area who have served. Everybody knows somebody who has served and it helps them have a greater appreciation than they did 15 years ago. They know people in other countries don’t have what we have. It is a lot of fun on that day, but when we do the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem before the demolition derby, it is very reverent. You could hear a pin drop with 10,000 people in there.”

Bruce Woolsey, of Riverdale, has been in charge every year of the invitation-only car show that showcases 55 classic vehicles.

“We will have a lot from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s,” he said.

Woolsey brings his own ’33 Ford, and appreciates hearing feedback from the crowd.

“Everyone enjoys looking at a nice piece of equipment, and I think, in the back of everyone’s mind, they want one,” he said.

West Jordan entertainer Marcus Wilson, known as “Marcus Funny Man Who Does Tricks,” has been entertaining crowds at the Hot Rock’n 4th for a decade. His act includes jokes, yo-yo tricks, catching a bowling ball with his face and juggling knives while balancing on a moving board.

“I do a 45-minute stage show and some strolling,” Wilson said. “I call what I do juggling, but it is manipulating objects for entertainment. There are a whole bunch of different things.”

See videos of his act at http://funnymanwhodoestricks.com.

Wilson thinks the holiday is about tradition.

“People have spent all day doing fun activities and going to fireworks on the 4th of July since they were kids,” he said. “They look forward to this because they have a day off work, but also because they have traditions. There is a lot of patriotism too.”

Many have made the Hot Rock’n 4th their annual tradition, Summers said.

“It is the biggest 4th of July celebration in Northern Utah,” she said. “We survey the attendees and a huge percentage of them are repeats. So, we are doing something right.”

Here’s the schedule:

1 p.m.-8 p.m. Vendors, food vendors, entertainment, bounce houses and trampolines

1 p.m.-3 p.m. and 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Classic Rock band Two-Weeks Notice performs

6 p.m.-9:30 Demolition derby

10 p.m. Fireworks

PREVIEW

  • WHAT: Hot Rock’n 4th
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. gates open, 6 p.m.-9:30 demolition derby, 10 p.m. fireworks
  • WHERE: Lorin Farr Park, 769 Canyon Rd., Ogden
  • TICKETS: $16, $10 12/younger; http://hotrockn4th.com
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