Life

A Lame Demo Derby and a Llovely Llama

Demolition Derby Day is always my favorite day of the Fair. For whatever reason, this year they moved Derby Day to Thursday instead of Friday. I wasn’t about to understand it but I was willing to accept the possibility that Clark County is much more Tuff Truck Country (Friday’s main attraction now) than Demo Derby Country. At least I still had my Derby even if the schedule changed. So it was with great anticipation that we headed to the Fairgrounds today in time to grab lunch and get to Grandstands in time for the 2:00pm show.

Wow, what a disappointment!

Bigger and more troubling than the schedule change: the company organizing and promoting the derby was different. And not for the better. The 2:00pm show was, in a word, lame. The arena was tiny so there was hardly any room for the cars to get momentum. And even if they had had the room, the track was sprayed down with so much water, the mud slowed them down considerably.

There was a total of eight cars competing in two rounds. The winner of each round advanced to the evening show. The cars were all decorated basically the same and advertised a local painting company. Not a car painting company; a house painting company. It showed.

It really felt like the afternoon show was simply a commercial for the painting company with some boring demo derby as the cover. The infomercial…I mean derby… was over in less than 30 minutes. We and our friends looked at each other and wondered why we had bothered.

To put it in perspective: a Geo Prism almost won the first round. A GEO PRISM! As a demolition derby car?!? That had a decent shot at winning?!? Good grief, people!

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We later had a chance to chat with some folks who were competing in the evening round. We asked about the size of the arena. They rolled their eyes and said they had almost put their car back on their trailer and left when they saw how small it was. But they had been promised it would be enlarged for the evening show. They were also annoyed by how much mud was on the track. “I can’t put on a good show if I can’t get speed.” Exactly.

So it was with some wariness that we arrived about 45 minutes early for the evening show. The Grandstands filled to capacity by the time the show started. Last year there were three rounds of 8-10 cars each with survivors crashing it out in the finale. While the crews worked on repairing their cars, we were highly entertained by a truck round and a small car round. So about 30 cars, plus maybe a dozen specialty vehicles, in a show that lasted at least two hours last year. When we left the Grandstands last year…and all prior years…we left amid a cloud of smoke that smelled of exhaust and busted radiators, with our ears ringing from all of the engine noise and roar of the audience. The finale was held under the stadium lights since it was well past sunset, the darkness lending an ominous tone to the crashing.

Tonight? Still lame.

The arena had been enlarged by about ten feet in each direction but it was still much smaller than prior years. There were two rounds. Two paint sponsor cars were back with one seemingly independent car joining in for the first round. The independent car stalled early. It was a derby of two sponsor cars. Whoo hoo.

The second round was comprised of actual derby cars like what we expected. However, instead of 30 of them, there were five. Yes, five. Total. No point in a finale.

We watched as the five cars slid around in the mud and tried to build up some speed. One engine caught on fire. That was exciting. But then that car was out, reducing the field by 20%. Somebody eventually won. I don’t remember who. I sadly didn’t care.

As a new draw, there was a bonus round of RVs (apparently the notice I saw about trucks as well was incorrect). This sounded like great fun. Our gang of about 20 friends and friends of friends were very excited. Our bad.

Three RVs — again painted by the sponsor — entered the arena and lumbered about. Within about 30 seconds one stalled out and was done. So it was now a derby of two. Again we say, whoo hoo.

Admittedly, it was amusing and interesting to see how campers fall apart. Gaping holes emerged and then an entire roof came off and then one ended up looking mostly like a flatbed truck. But the speed was slow, and with only two to watch, there wasn’t much action. Much like the combine demo derby my husband and I saw several years ago, the RVs were fun once for the novelty but not terribly satisfying to seek out a second time.

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When it was all over, I looked at my watch. One hour almost exactly, including the national anthem, the Fair Court introduction, the Win-a-Jeep-Frisbee-Throw-Challenge, and some words from our sponsors. As people were exiting, the automatic stadium lights came on. The sun was just starting to set. There was hardly any smoke. And no engine smells were making my nose itch. Where’d my derby go??

A bright spot in an otherwise disappointing day was hanging out with Rojo the Llama for a bit. Rojo is a rock star therapy llama. He was busy working during the first half of the Fair, visiting schools and senior centers and Alzheimer’s facilities, but he will be at the Fair now until the end. (Full disclosure: I volunteer as an assistant handler for Rojo on various outings and charity events, so I know a lot about him and I’m very partial and utterly smitten.)

I was excited to see Rojo all decked out in a his cowboy outfit, greeting people and posing for photos on the Llama Greenway. But my spirits especially soared when I saw some dear friends who had heard a lot about Rojo but had never met him. I was particularly thrilled to finally introduce Rojo to Margie. Margie is 90 years old and just about the sweetest heart you would ever have the honor of knowing. Seeing her smile and laugh and hug Rojo and look at me with the instant and full understanding why I voluntarily spend so much time with him put all the Demolition Disappointment in perspective. Rojo, you rock. As usual.

Make sure you go say hi to Rojo before the Fair ends on Sunday — he gives great hugs. And tell him Toni sent you.

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On tomorrow’s agenda

— 4-H Vegetable Identification Contest at 11:00am (A 4-H mom alerted me to this. I can’t wait!)

— Tuff Trucks at 2:00pm (and 6:30) (It can’t be worse than the Demo Derby, right?)

— 4-H Dog Rally Obedience Competition at 5:00pm (I don’t know what this is but it sounds fun)