Emotions run high as local family celebrates the life of one who left is too soon.
There wasn't a dry eye in to be found Friday night for the start of the 152nd Annual Wayne County Fair
Hundreds of fans packed the grandstand for this year's demolition derby, the traditional lead-off to a week's worth of exciting evening entertainment.
And, while action on the infield was intense as always, emotions were running high for a very different reason.
Ryan Clemo was a fixture on the demolition derby scene even before he was old enough to participate.
A graduate of Honesdale High, an accomplished welder and vinyl design artist, Ryan loved his family and relished the opportunity to compete very year at the Wayne County Fair.
He was a hard-working young man, a loving son and devoted father to two children: Austyn and Colin.
Ryan's life came to a tragic end this past March when, according to Wayne County Coroner Edward Howell, he was the victim of a homicide.
Charges were recently filed, accusing Adam Dixon and Jonathan Yacinovich with involuntary manslaughter. Both men have been arraigned and released on bail.
On the heels of this tragedy, local folks rallied around the Clemo Clan and decided to hold a memorial heat at this year's demo derby. It was an idea the family readily embraced.
In fact, Ryan's sister Mandy volunteered to enter a car herself. It's her very first time ever competing in a demo derby.
“We're doing this to honor Ryan's memory,” she said, a catch in her throat and a tear in her eye.
“This was where it all began for him. Ryan ran his first demo here and my dad was an official here since before I was born. He was a great brother and a great dad. We really miss him.”
Ryan's mom, Pat, was quick to second that notion.
“Ryan was a wonderful person,” she said. “He had a heart of gold. He's do just about anything for anyone and never expect anything in return.”
Austyn and Colin each read an emotional tribute to their dad right before the action began, while his niece Mikayla read an original poem.
As has become tradition at the Wayne County Fair, John Whetmore and Dave Cole were once again the driving forces behind the demolition derby.
Whetmore acted as event announcer and emcee, while Cole handled all the organizational efforts and served as lead official.
Steve Motichka was also on hand to lend his support, without which there might not be a demo derby.
Motichka is owner of Rent E Quip in Honesdale, a former participant himself and a diehard fan. He and his family assembled on the infield Friday night to help kick off the fair in style.
“We've been in business for 25 years now and we wanted to do something special to celebrate,” Steve told the raucous, sold-out crowd just moments before the opening heat.
“Now, let's have some fun!”
Mandy Harvey led the parade of cars onto the muddy track for the Ryan Clemo Memorial.
A total of 12 competitors took part in a heat that had the crowd screaming itself hoarse.
Gary Racht of Honesdale was the last man standing. When the heat was over, he climbed through the driver's side window to accept the checkered flag from Cole.
He then embraced members of the Clemo Family and posed for pictures with the huge first place trophy.
Keith Krol took second place, while Jamie Rake finished up third.
Over & Out
By the time the evening was out, nearly 40 cars of all different shapes and sizes took part in this year's edition of the event.
Each heat winner walked off with $900 and a beautiful trophy. Runners-up received $200, while third place finishers earned $100 apiece.
Pat Clemo summed up all the emotion eloquently and simply, saying: “I'm pretty sure Ryan's looking down on this and smiling. He'd never miss a demo derby and he'd love this.”