INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The crowd packed itself into the metal bleachers, shivering from the chill in the air – or the nervous anxiousness that comes with knowing vehicles are about to be crushed, on purpose.
Several hundred area residents took a break from the carnival games and midway rides to watch the Demolition Derby on the first night of the Indian River County Firefighters’ Fair.
As the drivers took to the track, the audience sat – mostly hushed – waiting for the destruction to begin.
“He was looking forward to this all day,” Sebastian mom Lorrie Frances said of her 7-year-old son, Logan.
Logan said that his favorite part of the derby is that “they crash.”
This was the third year the Franceses have attended the Demolition Derby. Lorrie said that the biggest changes she’s noticed is that the organizers put in more bleachers for seating that the fence is taller for security.
“That’s one whale of a hit!” the announcer cried as contestant 343 plowed his vehicle into that of 43.
Looking for payback, 43 attempted to careen into 343, but only managed to clip what used to be the trunk.
For the most part, Demolition Derby drivers try to ram other vehicles using their rear instead of their front, protecting the engine from becoming disabled.
Miscellaneous car parts went flying after solid collisions, causing audience members to cringe, gasp and cheer.
Along with the regular Demolition Derby, organizers arranged a “mini” derby of compact cars.
“We like to call them the ‘bumblebees’,” the announcer told the crowd.
Twelve bumblebees took to the arena, though one failed to get its engine going – disqualified from the competition.
Before the end of the derby, a small fire erupted from the engine block of one of the vehicles, resulting in billowing smoke that engulfed the vehicle. A firefighter who had been on standby, grabbed a fire extinguisher and doused the flames as the driver nimbly escaped through a glassless window. No one was injured.
After the excitement of the derby, the crowds filed out of the stands in search of hot beverages and food and heart-racing thrills from the midway.
Others made their way to the Firefighter Training Show to learn about home fire safety.
“Firefighter” Neal Snyder trained four cadets on how to suit and gear up for fighting a fire, telling the audience that there are just two points he wants them to go home with:
– “In case of fire, don’t hide, get outside.”
– “In case of fire, crawl low under the smoke.”
Fellsmere mom Michele Packard brought her family out to the Firefighters’ Fair as has become tradition over 10 years.
Clayton, 11, and Corbin, 9, were among the four cadets training to become firefighters.
“We’re having a good time,” Packard said.
The Indian River County Firefighters’ Fair continues today through March 20 and includes the 4-H Fair with livestock competitions.