Smash 'em up derby draws hundreds to fairgrounds
By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 3, 2011 1:46 PM
Howard Kiser, winner of the demolition derby at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair on Sunday, throws up his hands in frustration during the final heat of competition. Another group of drivers will get a chance to show their stuff on Saturday, Oct. 8.
DUDLEY -- Clutching the trophy her husband, Joseph Davis, had won in the first heat of Sunday's demolition derby at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair, Beth Davis said she always tries to be in the stands whenever her husband competes.
"I try to be at all of them just in case he gets a concussion," she said, laughing. "I don't want not to be there. I was actually at work. I drove here from work to see him in the finals, but they said that he did good."
She said her husband had never been seriously injured, but is sore after the derbies.
The derbies usually attract big crowds, Mrs. Davis said.
"It is a lot of fun for the people just to see crazy people out here smashing cars, because they are crazy," she said. "I couldn't do it. I would not do it, but it is a lot of fun. They put in a lot of time to get these cars ready."
Some derbies award cash prizes, but that is usually funneled back into the cars, she said. The drivers make the most money when they sell the vehicles for scrap, she said.
"Then they will buy a new derby car, just constantly going," Mrs. Davis said.
Sunday's derby offered a streamlined field designed to hold the popular event to two hours or less, compared to the almost six hours it took last year to determine a winner.
While some drivers and spectators questioned the decision to limit the field of competitors, and to reduce the competition area, the arena grandstands were packed with an estimated 1,200 people well before the 1:30 p.m. start.
Those who couldn't find a seat, jockeyed for the best standing spots around the arena, including 8-year-old Jarrett Jordan, who at times climbed up on the railing for a better view.
Jarrett said it was the second year he had been to the derby.
"I like it so much," he said. "I like it that there are a lot of cars running into each other. I like to see all of them (wrecks). It's one of my favorites."
Jarrett said he wasn't worried about the dirt that some of the cars threw up as their wheels sought traction in the mud and that he would be willing to compete one day.
But for the present he had other things on his mind.
"We are going to do other stuff," he said. "I am going to ride rides and play games."
A moment of silence in memory of Pam Aycock was observed before the derby got under way. She was responsible for organizing the derby for several years.
"She dedicated her life to the fair," said announcer Charlie Bellknap. "One of the greatest joys she did was working and presenting the demolition derby here. At this time I would like for each and every one of you to rise as we take a moment of silence to honor and respect the dedication of a person who dedicated herself to this fair and this event, Pam Aycock."
Fair Director Milton Ingram said that he and Ms. Aycock had been in the process of retooling the derby format just prior to her death.
Last year's derby attracted 45 competitors and lasted well after 5 p.m., he said.
"We realized we couldn't keep the paying customers sitting out here five or six hours and that we had to shorten this thing," he said. "I ended up being the heavy in the deal because I had to end up being the one to make the decision as to how it was going to be.
"We limited the number of vehicles. We were going to have as many as 27 per derby, but only 28 signed up (for both days) so what we did was to divide up the number we had into two derbies (per day) and today we had a no-show so we had 13 cars. We have given the public two hours of entertainment and I think they enjoyed it. Those two heats, they were really working on one another and I think that is what people want to see. They don't want to see them sit out there and pity-patty and try to wait for the finale. They want them to go ahead and hit one another."
The format also eliminated drivers ganging up on one driver, he said.
"These were all individuals out there beating and banging trying to win the trophy," he said. "The winner got almost $500. I feel like people got their money's worth. We need to think about the paying customer.
"I think it was one of the better derbies that we have had. We had plenty of action-packed beating and banging out there, especially in that first heat. That was fascinating. I think this number here, 14, might really be good number. It lasted for two hours exactly and that is what we wanted to accomplish. We wanted to shorten it so that people could go out and enjoy the rest of the fair."
Winners from both days qualify to compete at the North Carolina State Fair.
The event featured two heats with the top three cars moving to the main event. However in the second heat four cars jammed up in a line that Bellknap joked looked like they were lined up for a car wash. After being gridlocked for several minutes the heat was called with Ashley Widener of Dudley, Howard Kiser of Richlands, Shawn Andrews and David Goins of Goldsboro advancing to the final round. Advancing from the first were Josh Kiser of Richlands, Joseph Davis of Grantham and Chris Hare of Goldsboro.
In the finals Howard Kiser won first place and his son Josh Kiser second. Hare finished third.
"Any event at this fair needs to be one to two hours max because you get beyond that most people don't want to sit that long," Ingram said.
"These boys were very resistant that we were changing the format a little bit, but I think now that we have done this first one, they might not admit it, but I bet they liked it. I know the audience liked it."