Not your grandmother’s derby

Children line up for their turn during the Green Lake County Fair’s Demolition Derby. Ariana Hones photos

by Ariana Hones

A hoard of lawnmowers rammed into each other as a cloud of dust engulfed them.

The crowd screamed.

“Reverse! Get ‘em!”

This was Demolition Derby 2018.

I had never been to the derby before. All I knew of derbies came from my cousin’s experience as a horse jockey for many years in Kentucky.

Big fancy hats, petite riders and winning horses flanked with blankets of roses.

This was not that.

Instead, cigar puffing and martini sipping was replaced with packed stands of burger wielding, soda slurping fans readying to see some major metallic collisions.

The Green Lake County Fair’s Demolition Derby began with tots. Young kids, many the children of “Demo Derby Dads,” readied themselves in battery operated kid cars and bike helmets.

The announcer wanted the crowd to count down together: “Five, four, three, two, one.”

I resisted letting my voice join in.

The referee’s flag dropped and the demolition began.

For the longest minute of my life, I watched on edge as they banged into each other trying to be the last kid standing.

Next came those dusty lawnmowers, followed by various categories of cars and trucks. Cobbled together sheets of metal and spray painted with smiley faces and the names of loved ones.

As each category of vehicle took to the track, its promenade mimicked pictures of proud southern derby horses I had seen so many times.

What was unfamiliar was the smell of burnt rubber and the sound of crunching metal as tires fell off.

Is that car blowing steam or smoke?

The firemen go to check.

A true demolition derby.

I watched as these vehicles spun through the dirt and grass, as hands flew in the air with exasperation as engines quit and the visions of the trophy flew out the window.

When the dust cleared after each round, the champion emerged, climbing from windows of a truck just barely held together, yet still triumphant.

At the end of each demo, the corpses of vehicles were hauled off the track by fork lifts and tractors.

Teased and humbled down, the skeletal remains passed by the elusive trophy table.

Little girls stood in line, both patiently and with passion, to buy one dollar checkered racing flags that they immediately began to wave in the air.

One referee hit yellow smiley face beach balls into the crowd.

I covered my eyes along with the rest of the grandstand as two trucks sent dirt flying into the air.

They then faced off like a medieval draw.

Hood to hood. The drivers stared into each other’s eyes.

Then spun out.

When the last collection of trucks came onto the track, I knew I was in for some major collisions.

These trucks were big. They meant business.

At the last minute, “Hell raiser 92” came onto the scene. In large, white spray paint the words “Oh Yeahhhhh” were printed onto the side of the truck.

The announcer once again asked for the audience to count down with him.

On the edge of my seat, I unexpectedly heard my voice weave in with those of the energized crowd:

“Five, four, three, two, one …”