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Fans flock to fair for metal mayhem
demo derby pic3
Before the mayhem of the Destruction Derby started Tuesday night, drivers and their supporters were introduced one at a time. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal
This is a truth about humanity that no one can seem to deny: Whenever there’s a car accident, nearby drivers and passengers can’t help but break their necks to see what had happened.This is also true for demolition derby.But in this particular setting, there’s no guilt involved for the spectators. Just a lot of cheering and hollering, encouraging the demolition drivers to smash to pieces whatever is closest to them. It was an undeniable scene Tuesday night at the FoodMaxx Arena, where the Stanislaus County Fair was wrapping up its second and final day of Destruction Derby action in front of a sellout crowd.“I think what attracts them is the metal-to-metal mayhem,” said Jeff Brown, the personable announcer who has spent the last 26 years lending his strong, deep voice to the event. “They want to see cars crash, because they can’t do that on the road.”Though he’s usually busy trying to align the car numbers with the correct names of the drivers, Brown understands the demand for this unique brand of motorsports. He gave a play-by-play throughout Tuesday night, announcing all the craziness that was taking place on the dirt floor of the arena. He even interacted with the spectators during a short period of time before the demolishing of the cars took place during the ‘80s cars heat competition, asking what kind of ‘80s music he should play.But once the engines roared, the focus was on the impending wreckage.On Monday night, the fair kicked off the two-day event with the Turlock Lions Club Destruction Derby I: Tradition Turmoil, where the contenders were judged simply by how many hits he or she made to other vehicles. The top five scores from each heat advanced on to The Main Event — the final round.Tuesday night was a little different, and the fans loved it. Basically, the Destruction Derby II: Metal Mayhem was all about the last car running in the four separate “one-shot” classes, including subcompacts, powder puff (females only), lightweight (cars from 1980 and newer) and vehicles from the ‘60s and ‘70s.Yes, there was prize money, but for some drivers, that’s just a bonus. For Denair’s Caleb Stearns, he was keeping a family legacy going, as his father was a demolition derby driver. On Tuesday night, Stearns was competing for the first time.Then there was Steven Brose of Modesto. The 18-year old had been watching demolition derby action for years. So, he thought, he might as well take a crack at it this time. He and his friends bought a truck from the car impound for $200 and built it from the ground up, replacing everything imaginable, like the engine and fuel tank. They even repainted the car to make it stand out.“Once you get the whole truck fixed,” said Brose’s mechanic, Preston Prouty, also from Modesto, “you run it in the derby and try to beat the crap out of everybody.”Again, the fans enjoy it. And that’s why fair officials a few years ago turned demolition derby into a two-day event after running it once-a-year since 1975, according to Mel Carothers, a past Turlock Lions Club president and one of the original coordinators of the event. He said that demolition derby is “the biggest money-maker” for the fair.He also noted that the event has evolved over the years. Organizers used to have telephone poles to keep cars from going off-course. Now, there are concrete barriers to protect workers such as firefighters and grounds crew from the raging cars. In a way, that helps contain the mayhem.To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail at or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.