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Speical Section: Altamont Fair Preview Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 7, 2008
$1,000, twisted metal, and one explosive event
By Forest Byrd
ALTAMONT Lined up and ready to go, the posse of beat up family sedans and legacy sports cars idle under the murmur of an anticipating crowd. Each driver hopes that his car will last until the final round. After the horn blows, they’re off and it is anyone’s guess as to what will happen next.
“The driverside door is off limits, but the rest of the car is fair game,” Micah Turner says, remembering his first demolition derby at the Altamont Fair last year. “The disabled cars create the obstacle course. After a while, it becomes quite a challenge. With such a short runway, the drivers can’t get up to a dangerous speed, but it definitely gets your attention when your car is hit.”
Turner, a full-time member of the Army Reserve, loves the intensity and excitement of being in an arena filled with expectant fans. “Last year, it was just me and my neighbors just getting together and having a good time. The purse just paid for a round of beers for the department,” said the volunteer firefighter from West Glenville. This year the purse is 10 times as big and it looks like the event will be a lot bigger, too.
The Altamont Fair is running the derby through the production company Stoney Roberts for the first time. By narrowing it down to one night, and raising the awards for the winners, the fair hopes that the event will have a bigger draw. The purse is $1,000 but that’s not what excites Turner. Though the money would be a big boost for his fire department, he just wants to expand on his experience from last year, he said. “There is nothing like the rush you feel when you are driving in that arena,” said turner. “It’s amazing.”
In 2004 and 2005, Turner was stationed in Iraq, where he rebuilt structures in small cities outside of Baghdad. After 14 months in Iraq, Turner, back in the States, is still enlisted in the Army Reserve and spends his time recruiting and raising a family. He is married with two young children. While civilian life poses some different challenges than service in Iraq, Turner has no problem getting into the middle of intense events like destroying heavy metal in the demolition derby.
Contestants enter all kinds of cars in the derby. The vehicles are usually older and decrepit. Right now, Turner is entering two cars with hopes that a third will be ready by the fair. He and his teammates are preparing a couple of Fords from the early 90’s a Taurus and Capri. They are also trying to get their hands on an ’85 Jaguar but Turner may not have it ready by the event on Aug. 17.
A lot of criteria has to be met before the cars are deemed worthy to compete. All windows need to be removed and the car’s interior must be stripped of all extraneous extrusions. Underneath, the competitor must check the car’s gas tank and make sure it’s secure and also check and fix any other flammable leaks to avoid any explosions. Only two contestants are allowed in the pit and all come in through a certain gate.
“Security and safety been raised this year for the derby,” said the fair’s manager, Marie McMillen. “We do all we can to keep people safe at the fair.”
The demolition derby is being held at the Altamont fairgrounds grandstand on Aug. 17 at 7pm. There is no charge with general admission.