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From rodeo to demo derby, fair draws from far and wide

Staff writer

Saturday evening’s demolition derby at the Marion County Fair ended up being a rousing success from start to finish, with drivers from across Kansas and fans from as far as Alaska.

Several families had multiple members in events, but none matched the hometown success of the Hamms.

Carla Hamm took, taking first place in the Powderpuff and her daughter, Jasee, won the lawnmower event for kids.

“It’s always been a family and friends situation,” Carla Hamm said. “The fair put on a heat for the girls, so it’s a good, fun way to spend time with family and friends.”

It was the inaugural year for the Powderpuff, and drivers and fans alike thought it was worth continuing.

“That was good, the girls were getting it,” Marion native Dustin Steele said. “I was pretty impressed by how fearless some of them were.”

Steele, who has not been to the county fair for the past few years, said the derby at Hillsboro is special, even though some other fairs are getting rid of their demolition derbies.

Not having enough competitors was not a problem Saturday. Even the lawnmower event had nine drivers.

After five minutes of driving, Seth Schneider and Jasee were the last two, meaning the winner was decided by fan vote. Despite Seth’s best efforts, the fans favored Jasee and the MC good-naturedly informed Seth that he had been “hometowned.”

Drivers aren’t the only important factor for the derby to work; there are also volunteer firemen on the sidelines. In total, members from eight fire departments across Marion County put out fires or smoking vehicles, and made sure everyone was safe.

Their reward was seeing good show, Peabody fireman Clayton Philpott said.

“We get to come out here, have a fun time, watch people hit each other,” Philpott said.

The Figure Eight race kicked off the evening, but it was the second heat, run after the Powderpuff and lawn mowers, that determined the winner. Despite running in third place for much of the race, Nathan Amstutz’s No. 1 car pulled ahead in the later laps to take the crown. Mike Brandt, 40, took second, and Jared Dyck, 62, third.

The derby finale was the team event and anticipation built all night.

“The team derby was new last year,” Austin Welch of the Hillsboro Fire Department said. “I was out here last year and really enjoyed teams, brings a whole new environment to the derby.”

The amount of traction on the course is very important, too, and the judges determine that, Peabody assistant Fire Chief Steve Rose said.

“The less water on the ground, the more traction, the better they can hit,” Rose said.

Trying to account for too many variables can be difficult for a driver, Powderpuff runner up Liz Johnson said.

“There’s a lot of strategy to it, so I was trying to think of all these things at once,” Johnson said.

Strategy and external variables were especially applicable to the Bonestock and compact events. There were 17 drivers in rhe Bonestock event trip and 11 competitors in the compact class, which nearly matched the 29 drivers from all other events combined.

No one had to ask who was driving the Bonestocks winner, since Dustin Horn’s entire family was wearing neon orange “2112” shirts. Evan Slater, 11, was the compacts winner, beating Troy Hett, 911.

For fans there is a bit of strategy involved too, arrive early and save a seat.

Steele managed to reserve seating, but he had to give them up to stay with his daughter, he said.

“You gotta get here early,” Steele said. “We had a seat, but the little girl didn’t want to sit still.”

After the smoke and mud settled on the team event, Dalton Graves and Matt Bowers stood as winners of the finale. They both managed to last until the last moments and took advantage of the final minutes to ram Blaise Lehman, 57, into submission, securing the victory.

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Last modified Aug. 2, 2018

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