It's been a long time since the Sick Town Derby Dames have hosted a home bout: more than three years, in fact.
So it's a big deal that on Saturday night, members of the mid-valley roller derby team will be able to don their home black jerseys and skate in front of their fans, said Abbie "Glitzburgh" Leland, the Dames' outreach coordinator.
Their "Sick or Treat" home bout is against Beaverton's Air Raid Roller Girls at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center in Albany. The event starts at 6 p.m.
"I'm stoked to skate in our first home bout," Leland said. "I've been working my butt off, as has our whole entire team."
The Sick Town Derby Dames, which formed in 2008 along with the Willamette Roller Derby League, is a nonprofit organization.
The team of advanced women skaters has taken a hiatus from competing in home bouts to repair the 94-year-old historic skating rink it purchased in 2013. The rink, just off of Highway 99 in Lewisburg, was declared unsafe for use by the fire marshal in 2014.
"In April of 2016, we were granted permission to get back into the rink and use it as our practice space, and that included doing a ton of work," Leland said.
"Our track is too narrow to hold a bout, so that is why we use it as our practice space," she added.
Team members and volunteers have attended frequent work parties at the rink. The Sick Town Derby Dames also have held plenty of fundraisers.
"We do have the mortgage every month that we are obligated to pay, and we do have expenses like trash pickup and the heating and electric bills to keep stuff going," Leland said.
Proceeds from the Saturday bout will go toward additional rink repairs.
The team has also been involved in community events, like the Christmas parade, Pedalpalooza and the first Pride March in Albany last July.
The Derby Dames team is open to everyone, age 18 and up, interested in giving roller derby a try.
Leland said that while it's common for an organization to say its people come from all walks of life, "It really holds true with Sick Town and Willamette Roller Derby," she said.
The group has skaters ranging from 18 to 60 years old, Leland said.
Oregon State University and Linn-Benton Community College students are involved, including some who have graduated and remain in the area.
Sara "Candy Flip Her" Burch, the league president and trainer, and newcomer Kathy "Samwise Banshee" McCarty are both PhD students, Leland said.
"We have moms. Keri 'Stitches N Bones' Cribbs is a small business owner, and I'm a journalist turned marketer," she said.
Leanna "Van Slam" Van Slambrook, one of the team captains, returned to derby earlier this year.
"I started with Sick Town in 2010, played through 2013, and then took a job hiatus for several years while I was working on a career, or at least a job with health insurance," Van Slambrook said.
"We play derby because we are strong, powerful, amazing women," she said.
Leland said it's easy to fall in love with roller derby, because of the feeling of empowerment, confident and self-assurance it gives her.
"It's awesome as a female to see fellow females kicking butt on the track and working really hard together," she said. "And it's a great reason to wear silly leggings and sparkly shorts."
Skaters have to go through a series of trainings before they reach the advanced level and can participate in bouts.
The skaters first enter a six-to-eight week boot camp program, where they have to pass what are called "minskis," a minimum skills assessment. This includes knowing how to do derby falls on your knee and elbow pads safely, learning how to skate forward and backward on the track and more, Leland said.
Once they show mastery of those skills, skaters progress to the "fresh meat" level. There they start learning about the contact involved in roller derby, like hitting and weaving. Each skater will be evaluated during this level and eventually go through another minimum skills assessment focused on hitting, before they get to the advanced level.
Skaters have to participate in a few scrimmages and maintain an attendance requirement before they are bout eligible. The Derby Dames will field an active roster of 14 skaters for Saturday night's home bout, Leland said.
A bout is played in a series of jams. Each jam lasts up to two minutes. Both teams field up to five skaters (five blockers and one jammer) at the same time. The objective is to get your jammer through the other team's pack, while preventing the opposing team's jammer from scoring. The blockers play both offense and defense. The jammers start each jam behind the pack, and must get through all of these skaters for an initial pass, before they can begin to score points.
When this is complete, a jammer can score a point for every opponent they pass. The first jammer out of the pack is declared the lead jammer, which means they can end the jam any time they choose before the two minutes are up, according to the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.
"Unlike old school derby we can't use elbows, head, feet, etc. to hit with," Van Slambrook said. "We are required to hit only with the legal hitting zones and connect with legal target zones. Basically, I can hit with the full side of my body from my shoulder to the top of my knee and can make contact with everything from below the neck on the chest and outside of the shoulder blades down to the knee on the back of the body."
The Derby Dames have competed in some road bouts the past few years, including against Salem's Cherry City Derby Girls, the Emerald City Roller Girls in Springfield, and against the Klamath Basin Bombers.
The league features a junior derby program during the summer for skaters ages 11 to 17, with a team called the Candy Stripers, though it is currently inactive, Leland said.
They also offer open skating to people of all skill levels that want to skate for fun or practice their skills at the rink.
In addition, to the roller derby action, Saturday's bout will feature a costume contest at halftime, a beer garden, food vendors and a merchandise table with Sick Town Derby Dames swag.
The derby dames have sponsorships from Element Graphics, Goat Yoga and the Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence. In fact, Saturday's event will include a 50-50 raffle to benefit CARDV.
"We are having a supplies drive for them where people can come donate paper towels, toilet paper, Kleenex, and the basics that organization always needs," Leland said.
She said family, friends and fans on Facebook are excited about the first home bout.
"I know a lot of people have been waiting for this," Leland said. "I imagine it's gratifying on a different level for people who have been here in the league longer."
Van Slambrook agrees.
"I have only been participating for a short time in helping repair the rink but I know that for the women who have put their blood, sweat and tears into this league, and our rink, it will be epic and hopefully rewarding to skate in front of our hometown fans again," she said.