Hundreds of people filled the grandstand at the DuPage County Fair Sunday afternoon, eager to watch a dirty competition.
That's dirty as in muddy -- the competition was the fair's demolition derby, an event in which roaring cars slam into each other inside a mud pit.
"It's always a popular event," DuPage County Fair Association President Jim McGuire said with a smile.
The preliminary heats began at 2 p.m. The cars were organized into various categories based on size and condition. This year's derby also included a garden tractor category.
Winners of those heats qualified for the final derby, which was scheduled for 7 p.m.
In each heat, the objective was the same: Cause as much damage to your opponents' cars while keeping your own in drivable condition.
"It's a big adrenaline rush," said Jessica Lang, 19, of Schaumburg, who competed in Sunday's derby. "It's the only time you're actually allowed to smash something up with your car."
Lang comes from a family of derby devotees. Her father started competing when he was a teenager, and her brother, Cody, also competed in Sunday's event.
"It's fun to watch her," Jessica's mother, Doreen, said. "She always looks nervous in the moments leading up to the start, but once it starts, she gets ferocious."
Demolition derby participants get their cars from a variety of sources. Some go to junkyards. Others look for cars at auctions. Some use personal cars that are no longer street-worthy. Lang said she likes to drive Cadillacs from the 1970s.
The stands overlooking the derby pit were packed for the early heat -- organizer predicted that as many as 3,000 people could show up. The crowd shouted its approval whenever cars had a particularly vicious collision.
"It's just fun to watch -- it's kind of like boxing, except with cars," said Dan Crable of Elgin, who was in the stands Sunday.
Sunday was the final day for the 58th annual DuPage County Fair, which again brought carnival rides, food, animals, live music, games and competitions to the fairgrounds in Wheaton.