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Car crashes and smashes elicit cheers at 4-H Fair's Demolition Derby

The audience came out on Saturday night for a show: the finale of the 4-H & FFA Fair, the Demolition Derby.

Two cars smash into each other, sending crunching metal sounds reverberating across the stadium. The crowd cheers.

An announcer calls out a great hit, though if a hit isn't as loud or menacing, that car is urged to try harder. After all, the audience came out to the Carroll County Agriculture Center on Saturday night for a show — the finale of the 4-H & FFA Fair, the Demolition Derby.

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It's a spectacle of cars crashing into one another until they are no longer functioning. Despite the amount of hits and wheels missing, the drivers try to continue for as long as the cars can. They are out of the competition when the driver pulls an orange stick from outside the driver window or when the driver fails to make contact with another vehicle after a set amount of time.

It was Jonathan Baldwin's first time as a driver. He went as part of the first heat of four-cylinder cars. He got in what the announcer would call good hits before his car was too smashed to function.

His friends were sitting on the hill at the Agriculture Center watching him.

"It was definitely exciting. I know he put a lot of time in the car," said Dylan Rinehart, of Mount Airy.

Rinehart has never done a derby before, but he said he thinks Baldwin learned from it and looks to see him participate again.

"I was kind of worried when he got hit, but he looked good," he said.

In the heat, one of the winners was car 666X, driven by Travis Curtis, of Rockville.

Robbie Wyatt, also of Rockville, helped build the car Curtis drove. He's participated in a few himself, and he said a person's instincts kick in when driving in a derby.

There are a set of guidelines that cars must meet, and Wyatt couldn't pick out a specific feature of the car that would help it win.

"It's not very special," Wyatt said. "It's got a special driver."

The derby captures the attention of Anna Smith, from left, 5, Brooklyn Ayers, 3, Lily Ayers, 7 and Leah Schaeffer, 3, all of Westminster.
The derby captures the attention of Anna Smith, from left, 5, Brooklyn Ayers, 3, Lily Ayers, 7 and Leah Schaeffer, 3, all of Westminster. (Phil Grout / Carroll County Times)

One of the guidelines is that everything that opens must be welded down. There can't be any glass or plastic on the car, said Adam Geiman and Ben Humphreys, both of Manchester.

They helped build one of the cars. It was brought out as part of the fan-favorite session of the night, during which the audience's cheering determined which of two cars was more beloved.

Geiman called the car a tank, but he and Humphreys said they worked on the car with safety first in their minds. With everything welded down, that means the driver has to use a less conventional way to get in the car, Humphreys said.

"Like 'The Dukes of Hazard,' just jumps through the window," he said.

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David and Valiree Stine came from Hagerstown to watch the derby. David Stine has driven in his own derbies, but on Saturday he was a spectator.

"It's hard to watch it and not be in it," he said.

His favorite part are the crashes. Valiree Stine called him a derby addict, though she said she also likes watching.

"A lot of things happen in these things. They flip over. They catch on fire," she said.

There was smoke and burning rubber after cars sustained hits, eliciting cheers and yells from the crowd. Every time there was a loud crunch, the crowd would respond by cheering louder.

The crashes are Mike Sullivan's favorite part of the Demolition Derby. Sullivan and his wife, Anne, came from Eldersburg to see the derby.

"There's just not another event you can go to where people take cars run and wreck them," he said.

Sullivan said the derby was one of his favorite parts of the entire 4-H Fair, adding that he also enjoys the tractor pull.

"Demolition Derby, it's something you have to come to," he said. "It's something you can't miss."

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