When people said the name Sammy Huffman in Craig, most everyone knew the man.
He was bigger than life, with a smile and a heart that matched.
He had been the emcee at the Craig County Fairgrounds derbies for many years until his untimely death two months ago. Many felt the heartbreak of losing him so early in life and were saddened. Facebook was flooded with posts of pictures and memories.
At the annual Fall Demolition Derby on Oct. 8, the Fairgrounds Association dedicated the announcer stand, (or “tower” as Huffman called it), in memory of Sammy Huffman.
They redid the roof and added a huge 8-foot-long metal sign that said, “BIG SAM’S STAND” in memory of Sammy Huffman. The picture on the sign is of Huffman leaning against one of his crashed-up derby cars with the saying, “Play Times OVER!”
Randy Dillon designed and made the sign.
“He had such a great passion for the demo derby,” BJ Oliver shared. “We felt that we wanted to do this.”
At the derby, the association had these words read:
“Today Oct. 8 we gather together as family, classmates, friends, and neighbors to not only have fun and compete in a demolition derby, but to celebrate the memory and life of our dear friend Sammy Huffman.
Big Sam, as he was affectionately known, was a friend to us all.
Some things you could always count on for big Sam was: ready for a road trip whether it was in the woods or hunting for derby cars, a cold beverage, a good story, to paint a #3 on everything you owned, to speak to you when he saw you no other matter where you were or who you were, to treat you like family, to tell you how he really felt as he didn’t hold back and most importantly the love he had for his family.
Today, the Craig County Fairground Association would like to dedicate the announcer stand in his honor and have affectionately named it ‘Big Sam’s Stand’ to forever honor his love, not only for the sport of demolition derby but for the love he showed everyone he knew.
Now as he watches over all of us from up above in his new heavenly perch, let’s all rise for a toast to big Sam!”
Also, Huffman was an artist. He had designed the trophies for the Oct. 8 derby before he passed. They are a metal sign with a pumpkin with a determined look on its face, which had bat wings under it, and cut out letters that said “Fall Brawl 2022.”
The winners were happy they not only had won the derby but had a special trophy in memory of Huffman as well.
As Facebook was flooded with thoughts of “Big Sam,” many shared their heartfelt memories as well.
Some of his derby buddies chose to share their memories for this article.
“He was a great friend! We actually grew up together and had been friends from childhood. He was one year ahead of me, but he lived beside of my granny, and we spent a lot of time together,” Oliver said. “We ran a lot of derby together…I really miss him.”
“Big Sam was a great friend. He might as well have been a brother to me,” shared Donnie Wayne Fisher, a big-time derby man himself.
“We had a lot of great times running derbies all over the place,” he added.
He recalled when “Big Sam” had his first win in West Virginia driving a 1967 Dodge Monaco Station Wagon.
“He loved the sport of derby,” Fisher continued. “We took many road trips to get cars together and talked about everything and would laugh the whole trip.”
Fisher added that Huffman loved his wife and kids.
“I still have the last unopened text he sent me because I won’t get another one,” he emotionally added. “He was a big inspiration to me.”
Fisher said he remembered riding his bicycle down to watch Huffman build cars.
“He was such a true friend and I will miss him as all of his friends and family will because he did not know a stranger,” Fisher shared.
Justin Dudding recalled that his favorite night was at Richard and Jasmine Brown’s wedding derby reception.
“Sammy was the emcee, and I was the D.J.,” Dudding shared. “Well, BJ Oliver left his cooler full of beer at the stage, so Sammy and I emptied it for him. We then tossed the empty cans into a derby car parked close to the stage. LOL, as we talked about derbies of the past and Tom T Hall songs all night as we drank BJ’s beer.”
He added, “I sure do miss the long talks about junk yards we had come across and the phone calls telling me where every Cadillac setting in the weeds he had found were at.”
As one of the younger derby drivers, “Baby Grant” (as Huffman called him), Oliver shared, “Yes, I did know Sammy pretty well!”
“Every time I’d see Sammy he’d talk about his derby days,” he said. “He would tell me about all the 60s and 70s Plymouth and Dodge cars he derbied that are now obsolete. One thing I’ll never forget is him talking about all the friends and family that he made in the derbies.”
Oliver added, “He talked about my grandpa all the time, that I never got to meet, and how he could be the nicest or the most hateful person ever. In fact, I will never forget about the man himself as Sammy Huffman, and me were riding around in my grandad’s Nova and it was the first time it had been taken out in 10 years and he seen us on the road and didn’t say a word, he just shook his finger and smiled!”
Will Huffman, his nephew, used to stay in the stand with Huffman during the derbies and they would chat back and forth.
“It’s just not the same without him here,” Will Huffman shared. “I’ll still come up here in his honor but it’s really tough because I miss him a lot.”
Huffman’s daughter, Hannah, said she had so many memories to share, especially of going to the derbies everywhere.
“Since I was little, he used to sit in the living room and make derby cars out of whooper and raisin boxes and make car noises while he played with them,” Hannah shared with a smile. “He was a character for sure!”
“He still had the same friends he had in high school,” she added. “He taught me to always take the long way or the “scenic route”. We used to go on family vacations to OBX and he and his dad would use walkie talkies and an atlas map to get us there. It would take eight hours but if definitely made an impact on my memories.”
His oldest daughter, Samantha, holds Huffman’s name.
“Derbies were almost everything to dad. It he wasn’t there in person; you better believe he was watching it on TV!” Samantha shared. “He even had a derby video games and we would play it together.”
Samantha added that she and the family really loved the dedication of the announcers stand and the permanent metal plaque that it now on it.
“I know that dad would have loved it too, especially with it being his favorite pictures and all. It definitely made us all emotional,” she shared. “It was very strange for us not seeing him up there or hearing his voice throughout the fairgrounds, but he was definitely with us all that night.”
The memorial announcers stand gives honor to a man who had great passion for life and people, as well as the sport. It also seems to create a deep smile within the hearts of many as they gaze upon the art of the memorial sign.