The 2012 Essex County Fair is in full swing despite the recent drizzle (at long last, rain!), and tomorrow’s much anticipated demolition derby was even featured in the New York Times magazine last Sunday. If you missed Ben Stechschulte’s demolition derby photographs, check out “Dude, Where’s My Windshield?” before heading over to the fairgrounds in Westport, NY tomorrow.
After the cattle show and horse-pulling contest at the Essex County Fair in Westport, N.Y., comes the demolition derby. One of the few women to take part has been Jennifer Reisigl… a 25-year-old who has been racing since 2008; at this year’s fair later this month, she will drive a 1988 Chevy Caprice. (New York Times)
Too many of my formative memories were forged commuting between Westport and Plattsburgh to school, observing highway accidents of sorts, to appreciate the demolition derby. But if you relish the growl of engines and the screeching of metal against metal, and if you are fascinated with the possibility of automobile explosions, fires and fierce competition, I encourage you to dish up a full report (complete with photographs) after attending Saturday’s demolition derby.
Demolition Derby Schedule
According to the Essex County Fair Program the demolition derby will be bookending the poultry and cattle costume shows, so you don’t have to pick and choose. Attend all four events!
In addition to this demolition derby snapshot, you can find the full 2012 fair schedule here.
NYTimes Double Dips our Demolition Derby
Inspired by Ben Stechschulte’s photographs The New York Times’ Clinton Cargill recovered the fair’s demolition derby on Wednesday to mark the opening of the 2012 Essex County Fair. He offered fair goers a top five list of recommendations top five list of recommendations:
- Pet a Wild Animal, at the Wild Animal Experience Petting Zoo.
- Enter a Pudding Eating Contest. (Friday at 2 p.m.)
- Hot Dog Pig Racing Contest. (This one you can catch daily!)
- Watch a 4-H Poultry Costume Show. (Sunday at 1 p.m.)
- Attend both a cow-milking and a milk-drinking contest. (Saturday at 2 p.m.)
My five year old niece who just concluded a visit reminded me several times during her stay that she had learned to milk a cow last summer, and “It was easy!” She lamented as many times the rain cancellation which preempted her repeat performance when we visited Shelburne Farms last week.
Cargill closed his post with familiar advice regarding the demolition derby.
But don’t miss the derby. According to Stechschulte, you’ve got to be there to experience the one thing the pictures don’t convey: “the distinct smell of burning cars.” (“5 Things You Could Be Doing If You Were at the Essex County Fair Instead of Reading This Blog Post – NYTimes.com“)
Unlikely Past and Morbid Fascination
There’s long been a mystique about the demolition derby, but a new event in which drivers intentionally flip their cars is vying for similar status. In Wednesday’s Press Republican Alvin Reiner’s “Essex County Fair promises fun” illuminated the rollover event.
A popular attraction last year was the Haulin’ Junk Rollover Show. Competitors use a special ramp to launch their vehicles into rollovers, aiming for as many full circuits as possible.
“The one with the most points wins,” [Bertha] Rand said. “We’re the absolute only fair in northern New York or Vermont that does this. I am glad we can do it again.” (Press-Republican)
It’s hard to imagine Elkanah Watson who first launched the fair in 1848 anticipating the demolition derby or the rollover show. Half a century before automobiles debuted, oxen and horse powered wagons and carriages would have been the rural Essex County equivalent to the gas powered vehicles that are now ubiquitous. Certainly there would have been little desire to smash or flip and effectively destroy horse drawn vehicles while risking life and limb in the process. And yet we are fascinated with the brazen competitors in their windowless jalopies sporting spray painted taunts, “Hit me hard!” and “Fear this!”
Although I admitted earlier that attending the demolition derby conjures all variety of highway horrors that I’d rather abandon in the dusty recesses of memory, I admit an almost morbid intrigue. I drive slowly by houses where demolition derby cars are being fine-tuned and decorated with war paint. I’ve spent hours talking to demolition derby veterans, trying to understand their experience. And I’ve stopped at the fairgrounds the day after the demolition derby more than once to snap photographs or to watch the crusher flattening the wrecked cars and stacking them on the bed of a tractor trailer for recycling. Morbid.
Who knows, maybe you’ll see me there. I’ll be the guy with the camera in front of my face and cotton candy stuffed in my ears! Will you be there?