Demolition Derby always a smash hit at DuPage County Fair
There's something about a Sunday afternoon in the Grandstand at the DuPage County Fair that turns mild-mannered suburbanites into an energetic throng cheering for mayhem and destruction.
It's the crunch of metal, the churning of wheels, the revving of engines.
It's the idea that drivers are crazy enough to get behind the wheel of a car with the sole purpose of smashing into each other.
It's the Demolition Derby.
Ever a favorite at the DuPage County Fair, the Demolition Derby will pack the Grandstand for two contests, at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, July 31. Drivers will crash into each other, competing in vehicle classes: trucks and vans, mid-size, compact, full-size, and minivans and mini-trucks. The top three drivers out of each heat will advance to the main event and the last cars going will be named the champions for each class.
"Everybody loves a demolition derby," said Dennis Nelson, who has a family business that coordinates the derby at the fair along with about 25 others in five states.
Nelson has had drivers ranging from 14 to 80 years old as well as spectators of all ages.
Though Nelson takes his show on the road, most of the 35 to 45 drivers on Sunday will be from DuPage County and the area, he said.
"Some people think we bring the drivers and the cars with us, but really the local drivers and the families make the show what it is," he said.
The drivers even bring their own cars, Nelson said.
George Winkler plans to be among the drivers on Sunday. The Wheaton man has competed in the DuPage Demolition Derby since he was 15 years old.
"As a kid I always wanted to take things apart and see how they worked," he said. "I like to push the limits and see how much I can beat up a car and still drive it."
The cars are completely stripped of chrome and interior parts for the derby, leaving basically just shells. This is done as a safety measure because it gets rid of the parts that usually cause injuries in car accidents.
"For a high-impact motor sport, injuries are very minimal; we get more sprained arms from turning the wheel than anything else," Nelson said with a chuckle.
Because the cars are stripped down and beaten up until they stop running, Nelson said it's harder than ever to find cars to use in derbies. No one wants to junk a car before its time, he said.
Derby drivers usually get their cars used from family members, newspaper ads, car lots or junkyards. Last year, Winkler bought an '88 Lincoln Town Car that had been idle in a neighbor's driveway, he said.
"Most of them are in average to poor condition and need some work to get them running well enough to win or place," Nelson said.
Tickets to the Demolition Derby are $7, which does not include fair admission.
If you goWhat: Demolition Derby at the DuPage County Fair
When: 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, July 31
Where: Grandstand at the DuPage County Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton
Cost: $7 for the derby plus fair admission of $8 for adults, $3 for ages 3 to 12, free for younger children