The man behind Salem’s couch races brings pinewood derby to Fork Forty

Nobody calls him David. Except his mom. 

“If you say David Buerge, it’ll be weird,” he said Wednesday afternoon as he wrapped up an impassioned description of his latest project. “My wife doesn’t even call me David. If you say Rev. Buerge, people will know.”

And people around town do know him, he said. 

The current owner of Best Goose, a bar in Fork Forty Food Hall in Salem, Buerge used to do the comedy rounds in town and in 2011, rode a couch in the park.

“We had a group for about four years,” he said. “We turned couches into soap boxes at the track in Bush’s Pasture Park.”

The annual event that had people turning old sofas into soap boxes was another idea thought up by Buerge and friend Chip Conrad while watching romantic comedies and talking about possible summer activities during their improv group’s downtime. It eventually drew local sponsors and competing teams before closing shop after its fourth annual race. 

On Aug. 20, the cars will be smaller and the track indoors at Best Goose but the derby will be back.

“We’ve had it in our back pocket for a while now,” Buerge said of the idea for a Pinewood Derby. 

Six inch cars will race a small track, traditionally used in Cub Scouts, and first, second and third place winners will earn a trophy. Best in Show and Goofiest Car will also earn trophies. 

The event will coincide with Buerge’s birthday–a celebration that usually lasts several days at the hall. 

“It’s an ego maniacal tribute to myself,” he said of the week-long specials that are offered during his birthday week. 

The derby, though, will happen on his Aug. 20 birthday and is open to anyone for registration. Those who opt in and pay $15 will receive a derby car kit that they can customize however they want–as long as it follows rules on size and weight. 

“We opened in the middle of the pandemic,” Buerge said. “Large groups were something we were trying to stay away from. This year, things have loosened up and we’re trying to bump our patronage given we did open in the middle of a pandemic.”
To register, visit the website or stop by Best Goose in Fork Forty Food Hall, 440 State St.

Contact reporter Caitlyn May at [email protected].

JUST THE FACTS, FOR SALEM – We report on your community with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe to Salem Reporter starting at $5 a month. Click I want to subscribe!