Driven by desire and the spirit of a fallen sister, Redding’s Angry Beavers roller derby team rolled into the rink at Big League Dreams last month to take on the Tahoe Derby Dames, kicking off the roller derby season.
Robed in their typical black jerseys March 27, each of the Beavers sported a white bandana in memory of the late Cori Fulkerson, 31, who died unexpectedly March 20. Teammates said she suffered diabetes and had been fighting the flu. Having joined the team last May, Fulkerson was interviewed for the first of this series, Roller Girls Part 1: Hip-bumps, Bruises & ‘Ballzy’ Fun.
During the opening ceremony, the excited, garrulous crowd of more than 900 people spent a moment in silent remembrance of Fulkerson.
Teammate Jessica Palmer made a dedication out of the bout against the Dames.
“I know we’re gonna beat them. We’re bound and determined. This is for Cori tonight — it’s gonna happen,” she said.
Palmer, 24, is a “fresh meat” member who joined the team a few months ago after seeing the movie “Whip It,” which, as one might assume, is about roller derby.
A longtime sports enthusiast, Palmer, like many others on the team, hadn’t ridden on skates in a decade. But she got bored with coming home from work and watching movies to pass the time. “There’s nothing like this. It makes me feel like an empowered woman, like I belong.”
Team members acknowledge a binding level of camaraderie among the women. Veteran teamsters, Palmer said, often offer their advice to the “fresh meat” players (the term for members who are still in the introductory stage of joining the team).
Technical advice like how to properly fall (yes, there is a right way) and effective ways to hip check (not “thigh bump,” like I was made readily aware) is passed on to the newcomers.
“Sometimes, like during practice, I get upset with the girls, but it’s only because I know they can do it. They have the heart. And when you play out there, you really bond,” team captain April “Vanity Kills” Thomas said during halftime.
“It’s amazing. We took it from five girls almost four years ago, and look at it now! We didn’t even have a place to practice,” Thomas said. “But this is for Cori tonight. We’re gonna kill them.”
Sure, the memory of Fulkerson lingered noticeably in the minds of the players, but team veterans showed up ready to claim victory. At halftime, the Beavers were up 58 to 48.
There are currently 38 players on the team, which is impressive given the nascency of the club. However, the roster for any one bout is capped at 14 players. Nothing is set in stone, but a second team is in the works. If all goes as planned, the second team should become a reality toward the end of the season (which runs through September), said Erica “Alotta Patrón” Waters.
Saturday was the biggest turnout the team has seen so far. “We have had a lot of exposure in the community. Our campaign seems to be working. Unfortunately, the loss of Cori drew a lot of people here. She was very loved in the community,” Patrón said.
The final score: Beavers (124) vs. Derby Dames (95).
While the team was excited about the outcome, upcoming events seemed to elicit greater enthusiasm. For its annual fundraiser, the Beavers will host a spaghetti feed. The event will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday (April 10) at the Shasta Builders’ Exchange. Tickets are $10 and include a spaghetti dinner, live music and dancing.
Perhaps more anticipated is the Bout Against Breast Cancer, or, put as a Beaver-ism, “Beavers for Boobies” on May 22.
A few months ago, Judi Grove, founder and director of Breast Impressions came out from Tulsa, Okla., to cast molds of 11 Angry Beavers.
Grove, a breast-cancer survivor, cast a mold of her chest before surgery as a way to remember her former self. She founded Breast Impressions to bring about awareness of breast cancer and help the recently diagnosed create memories.
The Beavers’ molds have since been distributed to various artists in the community who have painted them. Each of the molds will be on display, but not for sale, at Carnegies (1600 Oregon St.) during ArtHop May 8.
They will be auctioned off during halftime at the Bout Against Breast Cancer. All proceeds of the evening will go to benefit the local chapter of Think Pink.
What: Angry Beavers’ sock hop and spaghetti feed, from 4 to 9 p.m. Apr. 10 at Shasta Builders’ Exchange; “Beavers for Boobies” at 8 p.m. May 22 at Big League Dreams.
When: March 27
Where: Big League Dreams (20155 Viking Way). 223-1177
Tickets: $10 for spaghetti fundraiser; $10 in advance, $12 at the door (includes entrance fee to the park) for Bout against Breast Cancer. A variety of drinks (beer included) and food is available for purchase.
Joshua Corbelli likes to write stuff on paper, and that makes him a happy little jellybean. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or don’t. Your call.