After the smoke cleared Friday night and five police and fire chiefs left a sea of crumpled motor homes in the Action Sports Arena at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, it was all over but the cheering and back-slapping. After all, they were crushing the RVs for a good cause.
“It’s friendly competition between our first-responders and, overall, it’s just a really fun event for all of us,” said Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis, who participated for the fourth time in the fair’s annual Motorhome Madness chiefs’ demolition derby. “It’s a fun way to raise money for charity.”
The event raised $30,000 to benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Susan G. Komen Orange County’s efforts to fight breast cancer, and Project 999, a nonprofit that helps families of law enforcement officers killed or injured in the line of duty.
Costa Mesa Fire Chief Dan Stefano wore Kreza’s Ironman logo on his derby jumpsuit and an “Ironman Mike” T-shirt underneath. When Kreza was killed, he was training for an Ironman triathlon.
Friday’s competition pitted Lewis, Stefano, Orange Fire Chief Chris Boyd, Tustin Police Chief Stu Greenberg and Garden Grove Fire Chief TJ McGovern.
Though some derby veterans came out to battle, newcomers stole the show.
Greenberg — a first-time competitor — had the last RV standing, despite nearly nothing but the motor home’s frame left intact behind the driver’s cabin as the vehicle’s back paneling hung off and dragged behind as Greenberg rounded the arena for a last hit.
Though a popular tactic among the drivers was to back into an opponent’s vehicle — protecting their own RV’s front end — Greenberg took to barreling into his rivals.
McGovern made a strong showing in second place. It was the Garden Grove Fire Department’s first and last appearance in the derby, since it will soon become part of the Orange County Fire Authority.
McGovern, who has been with the department for 25 years and been interim chief the past eight months, was invited to participate as a “last tribute” to the 93-year-old fire department, he said.
Stefano, the 2017 champion, credited the “outstanding competition” for the night’s fun atmosphere.
Though he didn’t win this time, “we will be back next year,” Stefano said.
Along with Motorhome Madness, the fair is presenting the Damsels of Destruction and Orange Crush demolition derbies this weekend.
IF YOU GO
What: Orange County Fair
Where: OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
When: 11 a.m. to midnight through Sunday
Cost: General admission is $14. Several specials and discounts are available. For details, visit ocfair.com/oc-fair/discounts.