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Fulton Co. fair demolition derby fun for drivers, spectators

August 13, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

McCONNELLSBURG, PA. -- As a longtime spectator of demolition derbies, it didn't take much to convince Dennis Richards to volunteer a few cars for the cause.

"A little arm twisting," said the 62-year-old owner of Richards Auto Sales in McConnellsburg, Pa. "The cars were sitting in the back lot - parts cars. But they still ran."

The question was: Could they still run after the full-size car demolition derby Wednesday night during the fourth night of the 88th annual Fulton County Fair?

Three Richards employees - Brandon Buser, Dan Strait and Shane Speigle - put the cars to the test, the men seeing their first derby action in front of hundreds of people at the Fulton County Fairgrounds.

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"Two tech guys and a clean-up boy ..." Richards said. "I've never done it, but I wanted to let them try it."

The derby showcased 19 drivers in three heats with the top two in each heat advancing to the feature race. One driver in each heat could also get into the features race by being cheered in by the fans.

Speigle, 37, of Harrisonville, Pa., was the fan favorite in his heat in his derby debut.

"It's the biggest adrenaline rush," Speigle said. "Just never let the foot off the gas and keep going."

Keep going is what Ariel Hall, of Hustontown, Pa., had in mind. Hall, who was a competitor in the Fulton County Fair Queen contest Sunday night, has about two years experience but Wednesday entered her first derby at the Fulton County Fair. She was one of only two female drivers in the field but was knocked out in the opening heat after a loose bolt caused her battery to fail.

"It's really rough hitting, but I'm going back in," said Hall, 16, anxiously waiting for the consolation round. "You have to know where the corners are, you have to know who you can hit and who you can't hit. It's fun, though."

Veteran driver Mike Bard knows precisely.

The 44-year-old from Needmore, Pa., was one of the two cars still running after the first heat, earning him a spot in the feature race. He remembered his first derby - also at the Fulton County Fair.

"It was here in the 1980s. I've won quite a few," Bard said. "It's still the same thrill. I just get tired of working on (the cars) all the time."

The roar of the engines drowned out some of the thunder that clapped above the fairgrounds during the first two heats. But it didn't take long before a light drizzle turned into a downpour, temporarily halting the derby.

The more than 20-minute thunderstorm caused the dirt-filled field that contained the cars to turn into a sinking mud pit.

"There's a really happy medium," said Brian Yeager, 42, of Chambersburg, who served as announcer for the derby. "When it's dry, it gets dusty and fans can't see. But when it's muddy, the cars won't go. Damp is the ideal condition."

Damp was out of the question by the time the rain stopped.

But the rain couldn't stop the show.

o The fair continues tonight, featuring a mini-modified truck and mini-tractor pull at 7 p.m.. Lawn mower racing is the highlight Friday night, and the fair concludes Saturday with four-wheel truck pull, also at 7 p.m.

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