By M.K. Luther -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- With the crowd cheering from the grandstands and the Ferris wheel quietly turning in the distance, the emcee's voice was drowned out by the roar of engines as cars lined up for the Warren County Fair Demolition Derby on Monday night.
The popular derby was sponsored by Liberty Tax Service and officiated by Stoney Roberts Demolition Derby, with approximately 25 drivers signed up for Monday's smash-and-crash tour de force.
David Roberts of the derby company said the event typically draws both drivers and onlookers from around the region, and several drivers follow the company around and participate at different county fairs.
"Right now, the demolition derbies are the No. 1 attraction at county fairs and festivals," Roberts said.
Roberts, whose father started the business in 1963, said the excitement and the allure of the derby has not waned.
"It is probably the best adrenaline rush these guys can have in a safe environment," Roberts said.
Brianna Heisler, 15, of Shenandoah County is too young to drive in the event herself, but has family members and friends who are loyal derby drivers.
"They are loud and I like to see them crash," Heisler said.
Chris Campbell, of Woodstock, was both a spectator and participant, working as a mechanic for the Hardknock Derby team. The team had several vehicles registered in Monday's event. Campbell, 32, is a veteran driver himself and said he has long past the point of any fear when at the event.
"I have been doing it for 15 years," Campbell said. " I guess the danger part of it is gone."
The incredible "adrenaline rush" and seeing a lot of "steam and mud" keeps Campbell coming back to derbies across the area, he said.
Roberts said derby officials are fully trained to handle an emergency, and the company works with local volunteer fire departments and rescue squads to provide assistance.
On Monday, the Stoney Roberts crew donned blaze orange jumpsuits and stood outside the perimeter, ready and willing to come to the aid of any car or driver in distress. Little help was needed in the first heat, save for cars getting stuck in the mud-trenches and ramming into the concrete barriers. The crew mostly braved the flinging mud as it spun off from tires inside the increasingly smoky derby ring.
Within 10 minutes of the start of the heat, steam and smoke started rising from under the cars' hoods, as the derby drivers repeatedly struck and bounced off one another, occasionally using the surrounding concrete barriers as leverage.
Amanda Shipe, of Maurertown, helped underscore the working theory that women make the best demo derby drivers. Shipe, 23, hung tough as her compact Nissan Sentra was pummeled by the other cars, but never found herself stuck in the mud. Shipe was one of the last three cars left standing at the end of the heat.
Shipe said she is unfazed by being one of the few female drivers in the derby, although she does feel a sense of pressure.
"I guess you are expected to go out first," said Shipe, who was in just her second derby and qualified for entry in the feature heat.