This event should be a total wreck

The Baltimore Sun

Outside a large garage on a farm in Boring, cars that look like they belong in a junkyard are being carefully prepared to be wrecked.

Windshields, rear seats, headlights and back lights are gone, plastic gas jugs sit on the back floor waiting to be covered in a metal box, doors are chained shut. All four sides of the vehicles are crumpled to some degree.

But come 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, these cars will be ready to go to begin the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair's demolition derby at the Agriculture Center in Westminster.

"It's great entertainment for all ages," said Gerald Brooks of Manchester, who, with three friends, runs demolition derbies in Arcadia from April to September. "All kinds of people from all backgrounds - and not just the drivers - go to them."

The four men - Brooks, Leroy Schaefer of Boring, Ken Freeman Jr. of Carrollton, and Dan Graf of Hampstead, known as Brace Up Motor Sports - have been together three years, though Brooks has been in derbies for 10 years.

In that time, they've learned tricks of the trade to keep their cars running, mainly, keeping the necessary mechanics "as simple as possible so you can fix it," Brooks said.

The four, who range in age from 23 to 55, help each other in areas where one may not be as good as another, they said. And, they take no prisoners on the track.

Though some places wet the track, Schaefer said he likes a dry track "Because we like to bang them hard."

They have the trophies to prove their success in the derbies.. Two shelves in the garage hold overflow trophies from the team's various competitions - from the top winner to awards for best appearance and other categories.

Stoney Roberts Promotions Inc. of Harriman, Tenn., which has run a derby at the Cecil County Fair for about 30 years, will operate the Carroll derby, said Frank Roberts, company manager.

"It's our most popular event," said Cecil County Fair volunteer Karen Pritchard. "Our whole fair is just mobbed those three nights. That's our three biggest nights. It's really huge."

Al Miller, vice president of the Cecil County fair, said they have from 200 to 225 cars over three nights, culminating in a final feature with all the winners from the previous heats. How many cars is in a heat is determined by how many cars are entered.

Roberts Promotions has distributed fliers and posters to car parts and junk car businesses around Carroll County to advertise the first-time event, said Debbie Weishaar, fair manager.

Being Carroll's first demolition derby, organizers don't know how many cars to expect, though at least a handful are registered. Besides the Brace Up team, participants are registered from Mount Airy, Finksburg and Essex.

Steve Cox, 20, from Finksburg, was almost out of his first derby when the transmission croaked on the 1992 Toyota Corolla he had been given. Luckily, he was able to find another transmission that came in Thursday morning.

"I race cars and normally I try to avoid wrecks, but I always wanted to try the demolition derby," Cox said. "It's going to be fun."

Roberts calls the demolition derby "an adult bumper car, but on a larger scale. It's a unique sport. Until you've driven in one, you have no idea what it's about until you back up and smash into the car behind you.

"It's an adrenalin rush, you just step on the pedal and let it go and hang on for dear life," Roberts said.

The demolition derby is open to anybody who has a car to smash up and a $25 registration fee, said Royce Wagner, 4-H Fair Board chairman.

Roberts Promotions sets strict rules for safety and drivers must abide by them.

"I think we have a real good outfit to do it," Wagner said. "We went to a convention of fairs and Stoney Roberts was there and we talked to him. Our biggest concern was that we are alcohol-free, and his rules are 'no alcohol.'"

Participants must have their own car to smash up. Roberts said people usually look around for a car they can strip down for the event.

Drivers must be 18, or 16 with parental and medical consent, and have a license. They must wear a helmet, eye protection and safety belt. Roberts said.

Roberts and his team inspect each car for safety and to make sure anything that can shake loose or cause injury has been moved or removed.

Total cash prizes of $1,200 and trophies will be awarded to the winner, as well as such things as best appearance and best mechanical car, courtesy of the local sponsors, Koons Toyota and Verizon Wireless.

Roberts' team will be on the grounds by noon tomorrow to take last minute entries, but participants must be on the grounds by 5:30 p.m. to go through registration and the car inspection.

Anyone with a car wishing to participate in the demolition derby can call Weishaar at 410-857-8351, or Roberts at 888-361-5767.

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