Car destruction, high-flying bikes highlight fair

By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

A personal liability release for one of the Curry County Fair’s more popular events speaks for itself.

“…The participation in a demolition derby, either as a driver or crew member, exposes the (participant) to a substantial and serious risk of property damage, personal injury or death.”

The demolition derby is one of hundreds of fair events to be held during an eight-day stretch starting Monday.

More than 80 exhibits will be on display, organizers said, and in addition to fair staples, new activities include a petting zoo, a concert by Hispanic singer Ruben Ramos, ventriloquist David Zacarte and a clown act.

This year’s featured musical act will come from country music’s Kyle Wylie, a Clayton native. His performance begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

The arenacross races, among the fair’s best-attended events, are also back for their third year.

Clovis resident Rick Lopes grew up watching demolition derbies at county fairs in California and enjoys the Clovis event.

“When the cars make a large crunch and the cars get disabled, that is my favorite part,” Lopes said. “It is about the most action we get in Clovis all year.”

Now in its third year, the demolition derby is rising in popularity, said event organizer Jodi Clark.

“Last year the grandstands were pretty full,” she said. “It is so much fun to watch.”

Cars, often purchased at junk yards, are modified to have windows stripped, doors welded or chained shut and gas tanks moved to the back seat to prevent explosions.

The drivers must be 18 and follow a list of 36 rules — then the wreckage begins.

“They basically back into each other and smash one another,” Clark said.

The last car working wins.

Eight-car heats determine drivers who will compete in the finals with winners receiving a trophy and cash prize. Drivers come from around the area, Clark said, with a few drivers who compete in demolition derbies full time.

The dirt at the Mounted Patrol Arena is watered heavily to hold down speeds. Drivers must wear helmets and seat belts and Clark said some wear flame retardant suits. She does not recall any serious injuries at the Clovis fair, but is mindful of the risks.

“You enter something like this you are just assuming that risk, that something could happen,” she said.

Judges monitor the drivers, making sure competitors obey all rules. Pre-race and post-race inspections are made on the vehicles.

“They’ll go through and make sure (drivers) didn’t put cement in the bumpers to reinforce the bumpers, because that is a big no-no,” she said.

She said cheating does occur.

“The funny part is if you are really good at it you can cheat and not get caught.”

When the demolition derby wraps up, a two-day process will transform the Mounted Patrol Arena into an arenacross facility.

Todd Hammock of the Tulsa-based Cycle City Promotions will bring arenacross and all-terrain vehicle racing to Clovis for the third year.

He said a $5,000 dollar cash purse, up from $3,000 in past years, will attract the sport’s top talent. There will be 23 different amateur and professional classes for ages 4 to 50.
During the professional class race intermission, a freestyle exhibition will feature a return appearance by professional trickster Cody Elkins.

“Cody Elkins put on a show that got three standing ovations in Clovis and he promised the crowd he would come back to do a back flip,” Hammock said.

Arenacross is new to the Southwest region, Hammock said, and this year’s talent will excite a crowd that numbered more than 2,000 last year.

“They make a living racing,” he said. “So they go where the money is.”

Demolition Derby
Time: 7 p.m.
Day: Tuesday
Place: Mounted Patrol Arena
Registration deadline: Monday, $50
Contact: Jodi Clark 762-8827
Price: Free with fair admission

Arenacross
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Day: Saturday
Place: Mounted Patrol Arena
Qualifying: 8 a.m., Saturday at the Mounted Patrol Arena. Anyone with the proper vehicle and safety equipment can participate in qualifications.
Price: Advance: $10 for adults, $6 for children 12 and under. Day of event: $12 for adults, $8 for children 12 and under. Under 3 admitted free. (Fair admission included with ticket)
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Fair dates:
Monday through Aug. 21
Background: This is the 84th year for the Curry County Fair
Attendance: In 2003, 31,000 attended the fair
Tickets: $5 daily, $15 weekly for adults; $4 daily, $12 weekly for senior citizens; $2 daily and $5 weekly for children 6-15.

Source: Fair organizers