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Hometown tradition returns to Morgan Fair

Article Date: 
10 August, 2012 (All day)

After a six-year hiatus, the demolition derby came back to Morgan County. Historically, Morgan has had a rich tradition of hosting demolition derbies. Although the derby this year started out small, we were fortunate to be able to bring it back. Organizers are hopeful that last Thursday’s event will have increased interest not only from spectators, but also for future drivers who want to test their driving skills in the arena. Hopefully this was the first of many, and through the years it will be able to grow. 
Thursday night brought the fair in with a bang. The banging and clanging of crushing metal from the cars could be heard around the fairgrounds. The much anticipated revival of the Morgan Demolition derby had arrived. By 7:30 p.m. the stadium was packed and tickets had sold out. Many wanted to relive previous experiences at the Morgan demo derby, for some this was a first. For me this was a first-time experience, one that I was excited to share with my four boys. I’m glad I did because there is nothing like the awe shown on the face of a child as one car crashes into another.
The main event consisted of two separate winner take-all heats. Prior to the main event, each division—small cars and large cars—participated in an eight-lap race, which showcased their vehicles and built excitement for the crashing to come.  Racers made their way around the oval, vying for the $200 prize. In the small car division it was Andrew Winterton, former Mountain Green resident, who came out on top. Clay Stuart of Morgan took the prize for the large car division. 
Excitement grew as it was now time to watch the crashing of the cars. No one was more excited than the drivers themselves. Tyler Carrigan was the overall winner in the large car division taking home a purse of $1,700.  Andrew Winterton was able to take the prize for the small car division, bringing home $1,000. For driver Clay Stuart there is nothing more thrilling than the smashing of the cars. Starting when he was only 15 years old, he has been participating in derbies for 18 years.  He loves participating in derbies so much, this is how he chose to celebrate his 33rd birthday at Thursday’s derby. For most it is a family affair. Clay started getting interested in derbies from his brother Todd. 
Another family that filled the event was the Winterton family. Dale Winterton and his boys, Jake, Colby, Andrew and Adam were all racing their own derby cars. Another brother, Jarad, was driving the tow truck while mom, Linda, watched on from the stands.  The Wintertons own Winterton Automotive, a towing service, which complements their involvement in demolition derbies.
Although there is prize money to be won, the drivers in these races aren’t there to make money. They are motivated by a deeper passion. Older models of cars are needed for these races due to the materials and construction which make them suitable to repeated crashing. As time goes on, the supply of these cars dwindles, making them harder and harder to come by and more expensive to purchase.  A lot of times derby drivers will buy cars that have been raced in previous derbies.  Tyler Carrigan states that he spends an average of $2,000-$3,000 on a car. Combined with three plus months of working non-stop trying to get the car ready for the derby, you can tell that the drivers do it for the love of the derby. 
In a sport inherent with natural risks, many modifications are made to the cars to make them as safe as possible. The gas tanks are relocated to the backseat to avoid any impact. Also all the glass is removed from the vehicle. The battery is relocated to the inside of the car as well. The doors are generally welded shut and certain reinforcements are made to the frame. Derbies generally have specific rules stating what modifications are required and which are illegal. Intentional hits to the driver door result in disqualification. The driver wears a DOT approved helmet and keeps a fire extinguisher on board. Any driver immobilized or not making contact with another vehicle every two minutes is eliminated from the competition. The winner is the last car still running.
After re-introducing the derby to Morgan residents, enthusiasts look forward to seeing a new generation of kids become involved in the sport. With all the support and excitement brought by this derby and around $6,000 given out in prize money, the fair would love to have the 16-18 year old crowd join them next year as drivers.  A big thanks goes out to the Morgan County Fair Board and all of those volunteers and drivers that helped to put on such a great event.