Daily photos by Jonathan Palmer|
David Paul McGill of Pulaski, Tenn., works on the car belonging to Ryan Locker, left, to ready it for the final heat Saturday.
Controversial event a smash with crowd
By Catherine Godbey
Screeching across the rectangular manmade pit, hard-topped automobiles battled to destruction.
The Morgan County Fair Board hosted the second annual demolition derby Saturday night. Local controversy and the exciting atmosphere filled the bleachers with spectators.
That atmosphere and the prize money, which totaled $1,200, enticed 10 veteran and rookie drivers to the competition.
Waiting alongside his 1972 Buick LeSabre, Decatur resident David Rawlson anticipated his first derby experience.
“I’ve done street racing, but the derby is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Rawlson said.
He unveiled his strategy entering the pit: “I’m going to try to get everyone before they get me.”
With a countdown from announcer David Roberts, the derby began. Competing with the roar of the crowd, the motors rumbled, driving the vehicles at full speed into one another. With each massive bang, the crowd reacted with claps and yells.
Disbelief blanketed the crowd when a vehicle — with its fender falling off, hood crunched up and wheels out of alignment — kept crashing into other vehicles. Afterward, Patrick Simmons, the driver, said he’s retiring his car to the junkyard, but is intent on finding a replacement.
“It was rough out there. I’ll keep doing demolition derbies as long as they don’t kill me,” Simmons said.
The excitement grabbed Lawrence County resident Deborah Kirby, who experienced her first derby. “Can anybody do it?” Kirby asked. “It’s a fun thing to watch, and I want to go do it myself.”
After two hours, the dust settled and one automobile, driven by Ryan Glover of Good Springs, Tenn., remained moving through the vehicle graveyard — the winner.
Legal questions surrounding the demolition derby could have caused its cancellation. After the Fair Board began construction on the demolition pit without requesting the approval of Decatur’s Building of Zoning Adjustment, BOZA issued a stop-work order.
Cody Hood, right, prepares for the demolition derby Saturday.
When the Fair Board filed the petition to host the derby, BOZA denied the request. The Fair Board obtained a court order that allowed the event and kept the city from intervening.
Frank Roberts, general manager of Stoney Roberts Promotions Inc., questioned the debate surrounding the derby. “This is one night out of the year,” Roberts said. “We offer the excitement of the crunch in a safe environment.”
Rawlson, who received one hit that knocked him out of the event, envisions other derbies in his future. “It was great,” Rawlson exclaimed. “That was my first time, and I definitely plan on doing it again.”
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