Coalinga is gearing up for Horned Toad Derby this week. The event, usually held over Memorial Day weekend, was postponed due to Coronavirus pandemic mandates from the State of California. Opening Thursday, July 1, and running through Sunday, July 4th, the event promises carnival rides, entertainment, and lots of great eats.
There will be some things missing from this year’s events. There will be no parade due to CalTrans needing a longer time frame to approve using the Elm (a state route) and shutting it down for a morning.
Most likely, there will also be no horned toad races. Other events such as bed races and some of the long-time traditions that have fallen aside, on-by-one will also be absent. This is not the first time Derby has been postponed or cancelled. During WWII, there were several years that the derby was not held although there was no actual cancellation. It was more of an ‘understood’ decision with rationing and many people serving in the military. The other year that the derby was actually cancelled was in 1983, immediately following the May 2nd earthquake in which much of Coalinga’s foundations were literally shaken.
During the weeks following that catastrophe, people lived in tents, FEMA was in town distributing food, residents received water from Anheuser Busch bottling in Los Angeles, and stores were reopening in the West Hills College gymnasium. Times were truly difficult.
Although the derby may have been a welcome relief at the time, Coalinga’s infrastructure and other resources had been stretched to the max. Add to that, the frequent after-shocks, and it could have been another disaster waiting for Coalinga.
This year’s derby will be different, there is no doubt. The weather is hot in July, but there will be plenty of icy cold drinks at the fair. Perhaps most importantly, there will be rides, just like usual. Butler Amusements is providing the regular cadre of entertaining and gravitationally challenging rides for all who are brave enough to get on.
Bracelets are being sold at several locations and also by those in contention for derby royalty. You can save $5 and purchase your Horned Toad Derby Wristband before Thursday. Advance bands may be purchased at the Coalinga Chamber of Commerce office at 265 W. Elm Ave. They cost $25 a wrist band, until Thursday when the cost jumps to $30 starting Thursday at 3:00 PM (July 1st). Savemart Supermarket is also selling wristband for rides.
Three bands are scheduled to play: 82 Delux, Keysha’s Impromptu Band and Trey Tosh. Watch for more details at coalingapress.org. More information was requested but not provided.
NOTE: Keysha’s Impromptu Band is NOT appearing. They report that they were never contacted.