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Fender-bending fun at fair's demolition derby

  • Josh Babb of Caruthers gets slammed up during Saturday's Demolition Derby at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. (Conner Jay / PD)

The roar of gunning engines, spray of mud and clash of twisted metal on wheels punctuated a raucous Saturday evening inside Chris Beck Arena at the Sonoma County Fair, where the survivor-takes-all destruction derby thrilled a spirited sellout crowd.

As fenders were ripped off, tires shredded and chassis violently rearranged, spectators in the jammed grandstands howled with approval.

“It's awesome! They're destroying each others' cars,” said Stacey Furlong, 16, of Guerneville, who was taking in the vehicular carnage with her father and younger brother.

Demolition Derby

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While Ferris wheels spun in the background and the market beef auction wrapped up, Saturday's signature event kicked off with an announcer's growl.

“Are we ready to rummmbbble?” came the call, echoing across the arena's dirt floor, where five cars prepared to slam into one another.

One lost a wheel within minutes but limped on and made it through the heat, becoming a crowd favorite.

“He's still going!” Furlong cheered.

Adam Miller, 38, had prepared like a veteran. He wore earplugs.

“You can still feel it and hear it,” he shouted, barely audible over the cacophony of internal combustion.

Moments later, a full-speed assault by one car sent another up and over the dirt berm, disabling it on the roof of another junker. The crowd whooped as the tow trucks were sent in.

“These guys are not playing tonight!” the announcer boomed. “That's what I call demolition derby!”

Bryant McCoy, 7, taking in the spectacle with his father, was among the most enthusiastic fans. He stood and waved his arms, urging on the competitors. A first-time attendee, he sounded every bit the sage as he gave a play-by-play of the third heat.

“A loose fender, a car that's dying, a perfect hit,” he said, rapt as the victor's car spewed radiator fluid.

“He's leaking,” McCoy said. “How in the world can he even win?”

At the end of the night, driver Dave Emery of Willows emerged from the final-round wreckage to top the podium.

Julie Gianfermi, who was capping off a day at the fair with her daughter, Sophia, 11, pronounced it wholesome fun.

“This is nice family entertainment,” she said, raising an arm. “It's like — 'Yeah!'”

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