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Demolition derby smashes at McHenry County Fair

Published: Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014 11:16 p.m. CDT
(Kyle Grillot – kgrillot@shawmedia.com)
Cody Gerdes of Crystal Lake slams into Joe Heney of Woodstock during the demolition derby Sunday, the last day of the McHenry County Fair, in Woodstock.
(Kyle Grillot – kgrillot@shawmedia.com)
Greg Elser of Ottowa, Kansas, officiates the demolition derby after a car fire Sunday in Woodstock

WOODSTOCK – Specks of mud flew Sunday as a dented car in reverse plowed into another vehicle, prompting a raucous cheer from a large crowd of McHenry County Fair-goers.

One onlooker in particular, Barb Brooks of Palatine, said the demolition derby was one of the many events she never missed when coming to the fair with Woodstock-based family members.

“It’s just something you can’t see anywhere else,” Brooks said, talking loudly over the revving of engines and smashing of metal.

The last day of the five-day fair featured two demolition derby events, as well as events such as a lawn tractor pull, an open horse show, a wood carving auction, among others.

Jason Szatkowski of Woodstock came for the demolition derby. A driver in the first round, or “first heat,” Szatkowski said he’s been driving in derbies for 15 years total, but Sunday was the first time in six years.

While he wasn’t driving one of the last three out of five cars standing, he said it was still a good time, just like it was when he first started at 15 years old.

“It’s such an adrenaline rush,” Szatkowski said, watching as a team worked to make his car drivable for the consolation round later that evening.

The Grandstands bleachers were just about full throughout the first round of demolition, as Ken Bauman, president of the McHenry County Fair Association, said they were for many of events throughout the fair.

“I think it’s been great,” Bauman said of the fair overall. “I mean our livestock numbers have been up, our Grandstands events have all been really good.

“Just Friday was a little challenging with the weather that came in.”

Unwanted weather aside, Bauman dubbed the second fair under his charge a success, adding planning efforts for next year’s event already are underway.

As Brooks watched a Woodstock firefighter tend to a smoking car, she said it’s not just the demolition derby or even McHenry County Fair in particular that she loves. It’s the idea of fairs in general.

“It’s all real people,” said Brooks, who said she works in sales operations in the Chicago Loop. “It’s not like the rat race.

“It’s hometown people who take pride in what they do whether it’s their livestock, their produce, their cars or tractors, and it’s kind of what reminds me of what Americana is all about.”

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