GOSHEN — The track at the 4-H Fairgrounds is a busy place during the nine-day run of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.
During the course of the fair, the track is home to three days of harness racing, numerous concerts, the tractor pull, a rodeo and the ever-popular demolition derby.
The track area was filled Saturday night with the sounds of engines roaring, cars crashing and the roars from the near capacity crowd of fans jammed into the grandstands. When an announcer was entertaining the crowd before the event started some fans admitted they had been sitting in the grandstands since 7 a.m. for the 7 p.m. show.
Sarge & Sons Demolition Derby of Zanesville, Ohio, put on the show that featured eight heats.
Some of the highlights were a car being knocked over on its side with the driver having to crawl out with fuel leaking out of the vehicle. One would think it was the end of the night for the vehicle, but not in a demolition derby. Several members of local fire departments flipped the car over on its tires and the vehicle and driver were allowed to continue. The driver, David Merrell, went on to win the checkered flag in the truck event.
A pit crew member must have forgotten to tighten the lug nuts on a wheel as it fell off a car while being driven onto the track to lineup for the start. The driver began the derby with only three tires, but didn’t last long.
One of the more interesting aspects of the evening was a mother-daughter combination in the Powder Puff feature. Mom Regina Diamond of Wakarusa and her daughter Cheyanne Diamond, also of Wakarusa, were two of the three competitors in the event.
Delaney Flagel of Dowagiac, Michigan, was the Powder Puff winner with Regina placing second and Cheyanne third.
Regina was entered in the derby for the ninth year. She was driving a 1987 Buick. It was the first time the car had been used in a derby. The car looked good enough before the derby started for one track official to remark, “I could go get groceries in that car.” The Buick didn’t look like that after the event as Regina was towed back to the infield.
“The derby is in my blood,” she said. “This has become a family tradition and a bonding experience for us. The derby has turned into a learning experience for the kids. They have learned different things about cars, things like changing a tire that can be used in real life.
“I don’t come out here for the money, but for the family fun we have.”
Both Regina and Cheyanne shared the mother-daughter relationship does not extend to the track.
“This is the one time I can hit my mom and not get in trouble,” Cheyanne quipped. “On the track she is just another competitor.”
Cheyanne has been competing for five years.
“I took first place in my very first derby,” she said.
At the start of a derby, the official does a countdown from five before waving the green flag to start the event.
“It’s so loud on the track you can’t hear the countdown,” Regina said.
She also talked about what it is like to be on the track in the thick of all the action.
“The first hit is the one that gets you going. It makes you realize the derby has started,” Regina added. “The derby is something I wish everyone could experience so you know how to react when you have a minor fender bender.”
Regina shared there isn’t much of a game plan going into the event.
“You can’t think much in advance about what you are going to do since you never really know what is going to happen until the derby begins,” she said.
Despite being a nine-year derby veteran, Regina admits to being nervous beforehand.
“I usually go out and walk around the fair to calm myself down,” she said.
Greg Keim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 326. Follow Greg on Twitter @gkeim_TGN
Demolition Derby Summary
6-Cyclinder — 1, Austin Powell, South Bend; 2, Jake Hare, Goshen; 3, William Johnson, Elkhart.
Truck — 1, David Merrell, Roann; 2, Chris Sell, Amboy, Illinois.
Powder Puff — 1, Delaney Flagel, Dowagiac, Michigan; 2, Regina Diamond, Wakarusa; 3, Cheyenne Diamond, Wakarusa.
Fireman — 1, Kamron Brubacher, Wakarusa Fire Department. Also: Davie Miller, Middlebury Fire Department; Bill Greedown, Concord Fire Department; Josh Wernlund, Benton Township Fire Department.
Full Size — 1, Levin Diehm, Kendallville; 2, Samuel Diehm, Kendallville; 3, Dan Days, Corunna.
Full Size Welded — 1, Gregg Miller, Unknown location; 2, Bryan Swintalski, Elkhart; 3, Ian Phorigo, South Whitley.
Compact Welded — 1, Aaron Lintz, South Bend; 2, Kyle McNamara, North Liberty; 3, Dalton Winterowd, South Bend.