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Posted August 22, 2011 | comments 3 Comments

Smash 'em up

Demolition derby a big hit on closing night of Clarke County Fair

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

BERRYVILLE -- Explaining to someone from a foreign country the premise of a demolition derby has become one of Ricky Barton's pastimes.

For about the last 10 years, when an exchange student arrives at Barton's Berryville house, it is timed perfectly with the Clarke County Fair. Since school has yet to start and there is plenty of downtime, he brings the student to the fairgrounds for an assortment of entertainment, including the derby.

"This is their first taste of America," Barton said.

On Saturday, it was Jon Artaca's turn. He is 16, from Spain and already a fan of cars smashing into each other.

"I like it," Artaca said.

And, really, what's not to like about a bunch of destruction that you aren't responsible for paying for or cleaning up, so long as nobody gets hurt?

"We refer to it as the smash 'em up, crash 'em up," said Robin McFillen, of Berryville.

The demolition derby on Saturday afternoon brought a destructive closure to the fair.

The track was a little too dry to start, sending a lot of dust into the air for the first five cars, but with the application of some water, the event proceeded with unobstructed views of vehicular carnage.

McFillen and her daughter, Maggie, 11, were most interested in the contact. For the younger of the two, it reminded her of the previous year, when she saw a car flip and catch fire.

"I was shocked," Maggie said. "It was also cool."

McFillen said she once had a minivan that would have been good for the derby, but it's unclear if she would have taken the wheel to send it to its demise.

"I would like to think I would try it," she said, "but I'm probably all talk and no action."

Chuck Bain and his 9-year-old son, Caden, took their seats early for the derby. Bain said he would welcome a shot at being in one of the crash-happy events one day, and he has learned from observation the key to coming out on top -- don't let someone hit you in the front of your car.

However, Bain would need an offer to participate, plus a car, he said, because he has always been too fond of his vehicles. If Barton still had his Chevrolet Nova, for example, there would be a match.

"It would never run," he said was its problem.

Drivers go to great lengths to prepare their cars for battle. The last-minute tune-ups normally entail hammering of some sort. Minutes later, the repair work is obliterated.
But the job is not underappreciated.

"I would love to [be involved]," said Ernest Lopez, of Berryville.

The level of interest even spans the globe.

"I always bring them to the derby," Barton said of the exchange students. "They see the cars run into each other and they ask, 'Why did they do that?'"

3 Comments | Leave a comment

    Demolition Derby! Dang! Do we American know how to entertain ourselves or what? If you get a rush from seeing cars smash into each other, then there's hardly any wonder that the garbage on TV and movies has an audience - smash 'em and blow 'em up. Golly gee it's just a thrill a minute! Ain't it?

      Seriously?? Demo derbies have been a part of our culture since the 50's, maybe even earlier. All safety precautions are taken and everyone has a good time. Unlike the tv & movies that you mentioned, no one is deliberately trying to hurt anyone else. It's just good, clean fun. I suggest that if you don't like it, DON'T WATCH!

    Maybe we should just build bleachers along I-81. Then we could make money off of thatmess.

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