Crash for Clunkers

It's county fair season and Missouri is responding with genuine redneck sports, all things fried, and anything you could ever dream of eating...on a stick.

After writing a story about demolition derby for Vox Magazine this past semester, I started searching for an event to cover in my area. Erin Schwartz helped me out a lot as she planned multimedia for my Vox derby story — she and Kristen Difate had been working on an extensive project about demolition derby and had a list and map of just about every rally going on this summer. I spotted one near my hometown while I would be there for my internship, wrote it down on my calendar and have been looking forward to it ever since.

For my demolition derby, I went to the Platte County Fair in Platte City. It's actually an incredibly large fair and derby is one of the main events, with about 6 sets of bleachers on each side of the mud pit filled over capacity with spectators. Derby is featured almost every day at the fair, and when the mud pit isn't being used for derby, it usually features tractor pulls or mud runs.

I also went to the Platte County Fair because I just really wanted a corn dog. Oh, and some lemonade. I skipped the cheesecake on a stick.

But what is derby, exactly? Demolition derby is an accident waiting to happen, except it's not exactly an accident — it's on purpose. Participants climb in their junkers, line up, and begin by cranking it in reverse and hitting another car as hard as possible.

Participants must come in contact with another car every minute or they are disqualified. Cars are also disqualified if they become immobile. This seems much more common, especially in later rounds, as cars will have been through so much that they just quit moving.

Throughout the rally mud flies everywhere and smoke from radiators and the smell of burnt rubber fill the air. There are also quite a few engine fires that occur, especially dangerous because oftentimes gas tanks will be punctured and the cars will leak gasoline. There are dozens of firefighters, paramedics and bulldozers waiting on the sidelines to help out when disaster strikes.

I didn't do any extensive reporting on this event as I shot it. I mostly just wanted to have fun and watch some cars crash into each other. I encourage all people with a state or county fair in their general vicinity to go forth and enjoy some derby. It's definitely a cultural experience and is pretty interesting.

Photographs are copyright © Katie Currid, 2010, and may not be distributed or reproduced without permission.