Demolition, Determination, Dedication We first met Steven Messer at the McKenzie County Demolition Derby in July, 2014, and immediately saw his adventurous spirit. But we were most inspired when we dug deeper and witnessed his determination to overcome adversity and steadfast dedication to those around him.

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Steven Messer, 22, of Sidney, Mont., has been competing in demolition derby events since 2012 and was hooked on the sport since the moment of his first hit.  “When I went in there for the first time it was way different than watching it.  I’m sitting there getting ready to do my first heat ever [in 2012] and then the butterflies kicked in and I realized ‘Oh man, this is real.’  They dropped the flag, I was so nervous I just punched the throttle and turned in..I “arena shotted” this guy, totally smashed up my front end, my head hit the steering wheel…I came back up and was all sorts of excited.  I knew right then and there I could not get enough of this sport.”

However, in 2013, Steven endured the biggest hardship of his life: the passing of his father, Craig.  Thanks to the support of his family, girlfriend and best friend he overcame that intense tragedy and continued building the life that his dad would be proud of.  Meet Steven, his pastime and the people that have seen him through thick and thin .


McKenzie County Demolition Derby, Watford City, N.D., July 2014. Image © Chad Ziemendorf


“ITS SUCH A THRILL…YOU JUST DON’T GET THE FULL GRASP OF IT UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY GET TO RUN IN A DERBY.” – STEVEN MESSER

Most cars cost $200-$300, then Steven puts another $300-$400 in to it out of his pocket. Sponsors pick up the rest in exchange for their name to be displayed on the car, usually painted by hand. "My favorite part about it is just what it is - Its the rag-tag, last minute kind of stuff. Its nothing you have to plan hard for or be extra ready for. You just show up with your car, drive into the ring and smash other cars. It's awesome." Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven Messer works on his car with a blow torch just before his first heat at the McKenzie County Demolition Derby in Watford City, N.D.  The cars that Steven buys cost between $200-$300, then Steven puts another $300-$400 in to it out of his pocket. Sponsors pick up the rest in exchange for their name to be displayed on the car, usually painted by hand. “My favorite part about it is just what it is – Its the rag-tag, last minute kind of stuff. It’s nothing you have to plan hard for or be extra ready for. You just show up with your car, drive into the ring and smash other cars. It’s awesome.” Image © Chad Ziemendorf
"The most fun about it for me is you get to chain a car together, go into a ring with other cars, and then you get to wreck other cars…its such a thrill that you just don't get the full grasp of until you actually get to run in a derby. Its just the feeling when you're out there…pure adrenaline, you're nervous, you're excited, but you're comfortable out there. Its hard to say why I love it except that its the feeling I get." Image © Chad Ziemendorf
“The most fun about it for me is you get to chain a car together, go into a ring with other cars, and then you get to wreck other cars…it’s such a thrill that you just don’t get the full grasp of until you actually get to run in a derby. It’s just the feeling when you’re out there…pure adrenaline, you’re nervous, you’re excited, but you’re comfortable out there. It’s hard to say why I love it except that it’s the feeling I get.” Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven drives his car through the gate and into the arena past a standing-from only crowd during the 2014 McKenzie County Demolition Derby in Watford City, N.D. Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven drives his car through the gate and into the arena past a standing-room only crowd during the 2014 McKenzie County Demolition Derby in Watford City, N.D. Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven's dad, Craig, passed away tragically in June of 2013 while fishing on Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. "He was definitely who I role myself after, I always gravitated toward him. I love my dad, we are a lot alike. He was smart. Whether he knew what exactly was going on or not he had the flat-out common sense to figure things out. I learned so much from him, all of what I can do is thanks to what he taught me. He was an awesome guy, I miss him a ton. It was tough too because my girlfriend was 7 months pregnant an he never got to meet his granddaughter." Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven’s dad, Craig, passed away tragically in June of 2013 while fishing on Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. “He was definitely who I role myself after, I always gravitated toward him. I love my dad, we are a lot alike. He was smart. Whether he knew what exactly was going on or not he had the flat-out common sense to figure things out. I learned so much from him, all of what I can do is thanks to what he taught me. He was an awesome guy, I miss him a ton. It was tough too because my girlfriend was 7 months pregnant and he never got to meet his granddaughter.” Image © Chad Ziemendorf

 

Charlie Sheehan (left) and Steven have been best friends for a couple years; Charlie was the person who got Steven into demolition derby two years ago. "We just kind of started hanging out, got to playing video games, and became good friends." Charlie was getting ready to build a car and asked Steven if he would want to do it too. "Sure, why not?" Steven thought, but had no idea he'd get so hooked. They work on their cars almost every night after work until 9pm, then they put in extra hours on the weekends for a couple of months before the derby event. It keeps us out of trouble and out of situations where we could get in trouble." Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Charlie Sheehan (left) and Steven have been best friends for a couple years; Charlie was the person who got Steven into demolition derby two years ago. “We just kind of started hanging out, got to playing video games, and became good friends.” Charlie was getting ready to build a car and asked Steven if he would want to do it too. “Sure, why not?” Steven thought, but had no idea he’d get so hooked. They work on their cars almost every night after work until 9pm, then they put in extra hours on the weekends for a couple of months before the derby event.  “It keeps us out of trouble and out of situations where we could get in trouble.  Plus, it’s just so cool and rare that we found this [friendship], especially with someone right down the street.”  Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven's friends and fellow Sidney residents including Charlie Sheehan (right) chat about last minute adjustments prior to the Demolition Derby at the 2014 McKenzie County Fair. "It's not the same Sidney," Charlie shared. "It's crazy to see what's happened in such a short time, so many things we never used to experience." Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven’s friends and fellow Sidney, Mont., residents, including Charlie Sheehan (right), chat about last minute adjustments prior to the Demolition Derby at the 2014 McKenzie County Fair. “It’s not the same Sidney,” Charlie shared. “It’s crazy to see what’s happened in such a short time, so many things we never used to experience.” Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven has worked at Sidney Sugars, Inc., for almost 2 years and was recently promoted to "Boiler Operator" where he manages the operations of the boiler room including two coal and two natural gas boilers. The original factory was built in 1925 and uses sugar beets to create sugar for commercial markets. The coal burning boilers were installed in the 1950's and require constant attention to keep the pressure constant through fire management. Steven started as a fire tender in 2012 but continued to learn more about the operations so that he could be in a position to excel quickly, which he did. Steven attributes his intense determination to his dad, Craig. Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven has worked at Sidney Sugars, Inc., for almost 2 years and was recently promoted to “Boiler Operator” where he manages the operations of the boiler room including two coal and two natural gas boilers. The original factory was built in 1925 and uses sugar beets to create sugar for commercial markets. The coal burning boilers were installed in the 1950’s and require constant attention to keep the pressure constant through fire management. Steven started as a fire tender in 2012 but continued to learn more about the operations so that he could be in a position to excel quickly, which he did. Steven attributes his intense determination to his dad, Craig. Image © Chad Ziemendorf


“I learned so much from him, all of what I can do is thanks to what he taught me,” steven said about his dad, craig.

During the "campaign" period (the busiest time of year when beets are harvested and are being shipped to the factory) it is a 24-hour operation and handled in three 8-hour shifts making communication of upmost importance. "I'm always relieving someone, or someone's always relieving me." When Steven arrives at work, he talks to the previous operator about what happened during that shift, then checks the water level in the boiler to be sure that everything is safe. Image © Chad Ziemendorf
During the “campaign” period (the busiest time of year when beets are harvested and are being shipped to the factory) it is a 24-hour operation and handled in three 8-hour shifts making communication of upmost importance. “I’m always relieving someone, or someone’s always relieving me.” When Steven arrives at work, he talks to the previous operator about what happened during that shift, then checks the water level in the boiler to be sure that everything is safe. Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven sits in front of his computer monitors that display all of the vital information about the 4 boilers and chats with his fire-tenders while they take a brief break. Craig Cramer, 27, of Ventura, Calif. (left), and Jesse Vap, 28, of Nebraska were hired specifically for this campaign and hope to stay on with Sidney Sugars beyond their fire-tending assignment. Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven sits in front of his computer monitors that display all of the vital information about the 4 boilers and chats with his fire-tenders while they take a brief break. Craig Cramer, 27, of Ventura, Calif. (left), and Jesse Vap, 28, of Nebraska were hired specifically for this campaign and hope to stay on with Sidney Sugars beyond their fire-tending assignment. Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven's girlfriend, BreeAnn, and daughter, Bentley, look on as Steven gets some love from his dog, Tank. Steven and BreeAnn have been together for 2 years and love living in Sidney. "Its so awesome to have all of the people we care about so close to us," they commented recently. Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Steven’s girlfriend, BreeAnn, and daughter, Bentley, look on as Steven gets some love from his dog, Tank. Steven and BreeAnn have been together for 2 years and love living in Sidney. “Its so awesome to have all of the people we care about so close to us,” they commented recently. Image © Chad Ziemendorf

Charlie and Steven hang out behind Charlie's house in Sidney, Mont., after storing their cars for the winter. "We haven't really decided what our first derby will be [next year]. We'll either go back to Watford City or run in the Glendive derby, whichever one we choose will be season our opener. But Sidney is our main priority," Charlie said. Image © Chad Ziemendorf
Charlie and Steven (whose face is still black from the boiler room of the Sidney Sugars, Inc., factory) hang out behind Charlie’s house in Sidney, Mont., after storing their cars for the winter. “We haven’t really decided what our first derby will be [next year]. We’ll either go back to Watford City or run in the Glendive derby, whichever one we choose will be our season opener. But Sidney is our main priority,” Charlie said. Image © Chad Ziemendorf
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