Monday, May 23, 2011 By Aaron Brown
For much of the year I've written about the Maidens in the abstract. I've loved the idea of an Iron Range roller derby team without quite knowing why. After this last weekend I can say that this roller derby experiment is indeed a worthy and exciting endeavor.
The bout drew a huge crowd, but also a diverse crowd. My wife and I are both former local newspaper reporters with experience identifying the archetypes of Range life.
Some of the folks there struck us as "rodeo people." These are people who you see infrequently, usually in the context of rodeos. Very enthusiastic. There was overlap here with street dance people. Same deal, only with summer holiday street dances. But then there were the KAXE people. Literally, this refers to people who listen to, volunteer for, or otherwise associate themselves with the large independent public radio station covering Grand Rapids, the Range, Brainerd and Bemidji. But practically this term is code for intellectual, left-of-center artsy types.
Retirees, small children, drunks, pillars of society and more. Everyone was there. And they were there to watch roller derby. Derby in its lowest form is a bunch of ladies banging into each other on roller skates. In its highest form, derby is also that, but with remarkable feats of athleticism, soaring empowerment and community spirit. The latter is what we saw on Saturday.
Roller derby may be unusual, but the Range and places like it could use more roller derby, or at least the kind of energy that helped this fledgling group of women launch the improbably success that was on display Saturday night in Grand Rapids.