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Demolition derby provides excitement for fairgoers

Event returns to Franklin County Fair thanks to independent organizers, sponsors

August 24, 2011|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Adrenaline and excitement went hand-in-hand as the demolition derby drew hundreds to the Franklin County Fair Wednesday night.

After being on hiatus for several years due to the rising costs, fairgoers saw the return of the Full Power Demolition Derby inside the arena on the fairgrounds, and it didn’t disappoint.

“People like anything that crashes, booms and bangs,”  fair President Robert Eckstine said. “They just enjoy seeing one vehicle hit another and bounce around. People like the excitement.”

Twelve drivers from around the area entered the engine-roaring, metal-twisting smash ’em up affair, which featured two six-car heats, a consolation and the feature that paid $500 to the last man standing.

Not to mention the carnage and broken car parts that were left behind in the arena after the dust cleared at the end of each run.

“They’ll tell you how sore they are the next day,” Eckstine said of thrill-seeking wheelmen.

Jerry Seylar, one of the event’s new organizers, said the fair used to contract with an outside company to hold the derby, but costs for insurance plus the prize money for competitors forced the fair committee to cancel the event after it ran for several years.

Thanks to 10 sponsorships from various Franklin County businesses and organizations, the group was able to bring back the derby.

“We’re going to have some fun and destroy some cars,” Seylar said before the start. “We’ve got some heavy hitters back there. They’re going to be thumping.”

Shane Seville, of Burnt Cabins, Pa., was one of the drivers in the event. Piloting his 7X car, Seville said he’s participated in compact car demo derbies before, but never in the full-size battering rams like Wednesday.

“It’s an adrenaline rush — a big one” he said before the derby. “I’m pretty excited.”

Seville said there really is no strategy involved in demo derbies, you “just pick out the hardest cars and go for them.”

“I’m just going to go out there and go (hard),” Seville said. “I’m going to try to protect the front as much as I can. It’s already bent there before, so I’m going to use the back as much as possible.

“Towards the end, if I make it into the feature, I’ll use whatever,” he laughed.

Andrew Long, of Greencastle, Pa., was tightening the lug nuts on his car prior to the start. Long said it was his first time behind the wheel, but he’s participated in numerous derbies before, including those with his father, who passed away in 1994.

“My dad ran,” he said. “We do it every year in memory of him.”

The top five drivers received cash prizes, and the top three also took home a trophy. Seylar said they would also award another trophy to the driver deemed the event’s hardest hitter.

Eckstine expressed his appreciation to Seylar and his group of derby colleagues for their efforts to bring back  the event at relatively no cost to the fair committee.

“It really says a lot about the community to me,” he said. “It’s not only with the demolition derby that people have stepped up. We’ve picked up a considerable amount of money this year (from sponsors) because we lost a considerable amount of money from the state.

“We came to the realization that some things had to change, so we made an effort to go out and get sponsors,” Eckstine said. “And the people who wanted to have the derby, they are the ones who went out and got the sponsorships. They deserve all the credit.”

John Pittman Sr., of McConnellsburg, Pa., came out on top and outlasted all other drivers to claim the top prize in the feature.

Shawn Mellott, Tracy Abbott, James Gress and Seville rounded out the top five, while Joe Greathouse of Hagerstown received the event’s hardest hitter award.

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