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Expo hosts demolition derby

August 05, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

It was a romantic gesture, but when Ernie Reese drove his beat-up station wagon onto the Demolition Derby's mud-filled pit Monday night, the message "Happy Anniversary Cookie" painted on its back soon was dented, caked with dirt and far from lovey-dovey.

Reese, in his first attempt, plowed and rammed his baby blue 1986 Chevrolet Caprice station wagon against 10 other cars at the Ag Expo's annual Demolition Derby.

Before long, the Fairplay man was stuck in the mud, lifting a white towel above his face as his competitors spun mud into his car's windowless cabin, revving their motors and crashing his car like it still had a wheel to stand on.

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The biggest instigator was a dull painted black 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme driven by Tracy Abbott.

The 27-year-old McConnellsburg, Pa., man turned circles around his competitors, backing into their front bumpers before spinning around to tap a clunking passer-by.

Abbott broke free from a nearly three-minute tug of war in which his car's bumper became hooked onto a competitor's bumper. The only other contestant still alive on the track, who seemed almost restless waiting for the two cars to break free, finally nudged them apart.

Abbott, whose car was painted red with the number 21 and the name of his son, Logan, returned the gesture by ramming the helpful car into a pile of dead automobiles.

He revved his motor in the front corner of the pit as the judges named number 21 the victor. Abbott left with $500 in his pocket, which he joked he would give to charity.

His bumper buddy, John "The Hammer" Pittman, 37, took third place and $75.

"That's not even enough for a tuneup," he joked.

Despite the condition of the cars after the race (for some, the condition even before the race), many of the drivers said their cars would see another pit before too long.

Derby fan Don Blair, 50, of Hagerstown, said he rooted for a dark blue Chevy station wagon that showed up on the track with its front side already smashed in.

"That car was so battered it was obvious he survived a few battles already," he said.

Alex Garvin, 35, of Hagerstown, said his beaten 1961 Ford Galaxy will make an appearance next month at the Frederick Fair.

The car arrived at the derby with a polished orange paint job and the number 3 painted on its sides. It left the derby with dents on its sides and mud slung all over its rocker panels.

Garvin said he has been entering cars in demolition derbies for 20 years. He picked up the destructive torch from his father, who passed it along to Garvin before he passed away.

His car tuckered out about halfway through the 30-minute show.

"I was depressed because it still started and was ready to go," he said.

The drivers had only 30 seconds to get their cars to start up again after they puttered out.

"When you look back and you see what damage you just done, that's the thrill," Pittman said.

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