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Crash! Bang! Will you marry me?

Surprise awaits driver at end of mini demo derby

News editor

A few weeks ago, demolition derby aficionado Evan Slater of Florence realized he had a car that wasn’t worth fixing up for another season, but he knew it still had at least one more good run left in it.

He suspected some of his driving buddies might be in the same boat, so he decided to try to pull together a last-gasp demo derby.

Four of them answered the call, including his girlfriend, Kaycee Chermak. Slater wasn’t the least bit surprised Chermak was ready to take her shot.

“She’s the girl version of me,” Slater said. “She’s elbow deep in there skinning deer, cleaning fish, working on demo cars. She’s on the fire department with me. We do everything together. We were up until 5 this morning getting cars done. She’s, she’s my best friend.”

But Slater had something up his sleeve besides a demolition derby, something he kept secret from his best friend.

After all the cars had been smashed, he was going to propose to Chermak.

Wedding talk had come up months before, enough so that the couple already had a date picked out — Chermak’s grandparents’ wedding anniversary.

Slater also knew the ring he’d been concealing for almost six months was the right one.

“She’d come up with some rings she wanted and I said, ‘I’m not going to make that decision,’” he said. “I said, ‘I want to know the ring you want, that way in 50 years you can’t get mad at me and say I bought the wrong one.’”

As for the engagement itself?

“She wanted some people, but not too many people around,” Slater said. “It was kind of a deal to get this all set up and lined up where she had no idea it was coming.”

At the start of the derby, held at the farm of Slater’s grandfather, Dewy Stevens, the only thing Chermak knew was that four other drivers would be coming at her, and she’d be going for them.

Lined up in a muddy field, engines revving and all vehicles in various states of disrepair, were Chermak in a 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass; Slater and Matt Druse in 1996 Chevrolet Celebrities; Bart Peace in a 1995 Crown Victoria; and Zane Slater in a 1994 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer.

Evan Slater didn’t see much action in the event he created. His car was disabled after delivering one massive blow.

One by one they fell, until only Druse’s Celebrity remained running. Clustered together, the drivers climbed out of their cars and started looking at engines and wheels, trying to decide if they could get anything more out of any of the vehicles.

In the midst of the chatter, Slater reached in his pocket, dropped to one knee, and extended a ring and a marriage proposal to Chermak.

Momentarily stunned, she recovered quickly, and with a wide-eyed smile said the words Slater wanted to hear, “Why yes, of course!”

Applauses rose from nearby spectators, hugs were shared with friends and future in-laws, and within about five minutes everyone was refocused on getting at least one or two cars back up and running.

Chermak said she didn’t see the proposal coming.

“Nope; I told him I wanted a certain ring, but I had no idea,” she said.

While it wasn’t the sort of proposal she dreamed of when she was younger, Chermak said it was perfect.

“It was really fun to have the derby before it,” she said. “I beat both the Slater boys, so that was nice.”

Perhaps there was a clue that went unnoticed that morning as Slater and Chermak got ready for the derby.

“Both my car and her car, we hooked chains between them,” Slater said. “We hooked them to the pickup and pulled them out here together.”

While he doesn’t plan on any engagements being involved, Slater said he wants to organize a larger demolition derby later in the year.

“Hopefully on Labor Day we can get another one set up to add to the Florence Labor Day crowd,” he said.

Last modified March 1, 2018

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