The cars roared. The mud flew. The crowd cheered.
Hundreds filled the grandstand Sunday afternoon at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton for the first of two demolition derbies scheduled for the day.
The fans showed polite appreciation for the (adorable) Power Wheel children's derby that opened the festivities. And the garden-tractor derby that followed got a few hearty whoops. But it wasn't until the stripped-down, dented-up derby cars screamed into the mud pit that things really took off.
"I love this -- the noise, the hits, everything," said Karen Scheidler of Oswego, who watched Sunday's derby with her daughter and grandson. "I got introduced to it a few years back, and now it's one of my favorite parts of the fair."
The first derby began at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday. A follow-up was scheduled for 7 p.m. In each case, the objective was the same: Cause as much damage to your opponents' cars while keeping your own in drivable condition.
Drivers have to do a lot of work on their cars to get them ready for the derby. The windows have to be removed. The doors have to be welded or wired shut. Gas tanks and batteries have to be relocated.
Dan Green of Harvard planned to compete in Sunday's derby inside a car that he and his family had cobbled together, Frankenstein-like, from the parts of other vehicles.
"It's basically a '93 Chevy Caprice, but it's got pieces from at least 10 other cars," Green said. "I hope it gives us a long run out there."
Green, who competes in multiple derbies every summer with his father and brother, said the appeal of the event is simple.
"We love building these things up and then destroying them," he said.
Matt Munsterman of Villa Park hoped to do some damage in the pit with his '96 Ford Contour.
"We'll see," he said. "It was a one-hit wonder last year."
Like other demo enthusiasts, Munsterman always has an eye out for cars that could be transformed into derby beasts.
"The problem is, all the big cars are disappearing," he said. "You don't see the Cadillacs you used to, big cars like that."
When asked what he liked about driving in the derby, Munsterman smiled. "It's like therapy," he said.
Sunday was the final day for the 60th annual DuPage County Fair, which again brought carnival rides, food, animals, live music, games and more to the fairgrounds in Wheaton.