Iron Range Maidens win big, and what it means

On Saturday night I watched the Iron Range Maidens compete at the Grand Rapids IRC arena for their first home bout against the Capital City Roller Girls of Bismarck, North Dakota. The Maidens rocked the near-capacity crowd with a dominant 123-58 victory.

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.


  1. I love the stereotyping, excellently done. There are a couple of stereotypes by appearance that I notice every time I return to the Range.

    1. The Iron Range chick mullett, evidenced by overhanging bangs somewhat permed looking. I see this in all towns on the Range and almost nowhere else in Minnesota.

    2. The over 50 Iron Range Mustache, think Burt Reynolds in his prime, also showing a lack of any further facial hair.

    3. The male mullett wearing a strange business named/Nascar baseball cap.

    I think these three stereotyped appearances fit into the Street Dance People/Effie Rodeo crossover…

  2. One further observation I just came to. The “KAXE” crowd is definitely the type of person you also run into at a Natural Foods Coop anywhere in the state, left leaning, eccentric, and intellectual. KAXE seems to be spreading their ilk, as I recently listened to the live stream of, “Green Cheese”, and most of the callers were from far out of the broadcast FM range. Awesome to see the station really emerge statewide!

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