The heat index was nearly 100 degrees and the restless crowd of drunken animals clung to the chain link fence as the drivers steered their spray-painted machines into the muddy pit at the Champaign County Fairgrounds. It was only a matter of time before they tried to kill one another.
I was sick with anticipation and Hamm’s beer. I had waited all year for the first night of the Demolition Derby and it finally arrived for me this past weekend.
In anticipation for the event, I pulled my cut-off jean shorts (jorts) from my closet and rummaged through a dresser drawer for a sleeveless t-shirt. I tried the jorts on Wednesday night and proceeded to do calisthenics in front of my girlfriend, stretching my groin as she laughed at me. I don’t think she knew what she was in for, and truthfully, neither did I, because anything can happen when you mix alcohol, corn dogs and gasoline.
On Friday, all I could think about was the fair. I could barely concentrate on work. Unfortunately I had back-to-back phone calls from disgruntled employees, so as I watched the clock on my computer creep past 5:00 p.m., I started to have a panic attack. After assuring the last employee that this could be discussed next week, I flew out of the office and raced to my car. On my way home I stopped by the liquor store, grabbed one Old Glory, one case of Hamm’s, one case of Miller Lite, and a large bag of ice. I raced home, opened the cooler, and started stacking beers. My girlfriend came out to the garage and laughed at the childlike grin on my face. It was hot as hell and sweat was dripping from my face, but nothing could have prevented me from smiling on Friday night.
I then rushed inside to take a quick shower, which I will admit is very anti-demolition derby, but I wanted to approach the weekend clean of any white collar residue. After toweling off, I raced to put on my jorts and t-shirt. When I went to show my girlfriend my outfit, I was pleasantly pleased to find her sifting through press-on tattoos with her friend, because when we go to the demolition derby, we like to dress up a little bit to celebrate the event. Granted, there are a lot of normal looking locals at the demolition derby, but in the beer tent, the crowd tends to be a little bit rowdier; therefore, it’s important for me to play the part.
When I go to a demolition derby, I do my best to incorporate the following items: alcohol, jorts, classic rock, tattoos, Levi Johnston, spray paint, wife beaters, aviator sunglasses, more alcohol, cigarettes, chain wallets, ankle bracelets and anything involving camouflage.
There are also items that should never be associated with demolition derbies. These items can include, but should not be limited to the following: the Bible, deodorant, caviar, whole grains, cologne, Fidel Castro and underwear. Each year as I prepare for the event, my stomach fills with a little bit of anxiety, because with each passing year that I attend, I tend to dress more and more like a character out of Reno 911. My radical appearance usually draws a lot of attention my way, but that’s half the fun.
Even though I fear running into an executive from my company, or a member of a biker gang who feels like I’m insulting him, that fear usually goes away after a six pack of beers. In all honesty, the crowd at the demolition derby is very friendly. Maybe this is because we are all there to relish in destruction and mayhem. There is nothing like a car crash to bring all of humanity together.
After my shower, I watched the two girls map out locations for their press-on tattoos. While they occupied themselves by laughing at one another, I grabbed a beer and paced my living room. I was trying to decide on what footwear I needed to complete my outfit when my girlfriend’s friend convinced me to wear a wife beater.
At first I was quite hesitant. I already felt that I was pushing the limits of my outfit by wearing jorts and sleeveless t-shirt with a hunting dog on it, so going one step further with the wife beater made me a little uneasy. I have no idea why I was so reticent. Maybe it was because I had never worn a wife beater before, or maybe it was the fact that I just wasn’t drunk yet, but my hesitation immediately faded after I slipped it on. I don’t know why, but I felt like an entirely different person with it on. It was so tight that it exposed my nipples, and I clearly pointed this out to the two girls who were laughing hysterically at me.
I then grabbed another beer and started lugging my stereo outside to start blasting 105.9. Even though it was hot enough to make my scrotum droop to the floor, nothing could have prevented me from sitting outside and slamming beers. At around 6:30 p.m., I started to get antsy, because my friends hadn’t arrived and the derby was scheduled to start at 7:00. Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long for them. Once a handful of friends and guests arrived, the girls all helped each other place tattoos on their left boobs and we all started drinking as fast as we could. We left my place at 7:10 and walked down the street carrying cans of beer. I am fortunate to live only a block away from the fairgrounds, so we were at the gate within minutes.
Even though we were all dressed out of our elements, no one seemed to care at all. You would think that people would stare and laugh at you when you wear jean shorts and a wife beater, and on a normal day, they probably would, but at summer fairs no one seems to be surprised by anything. The fair is an excellent place to unwind, drink beer, ride rides and eat deep fried food without any guilt. My group of friends and I were determined to leave all of our guilt behind us, so after we paid the admission fee of $5.00, we meandered our way to the beer tent and then we positioned ourselves near the fence. Everyone was laughing, drinking and betting on which car would survive the night.
Last year, the fair held demolition derbies on back-to-back nights, but this year they split them apart, so that one would be held on each Friday. Also, last year the heats were pretty brief, but this year they really stepped it up. They had multiple heats and even a truck heat, which looked awfully scary for the drivers whose vehicles died.
At one point there was one final truck left positioning himself to go full speed in reverse at two other drivers who were unable to move their trucks, even though they were still running. We all watched in sick anticipation as the last remaining driver revved his engine. The entire crowd watched with open eyes as he placed the truck in reverse.
Just when we thought we were going to see a massive collision, the two sitting-duck-drivers broke their sticks, which is the demolition derby sign of surrender. The crowd booed and cussed at the drivers for their cowardly act, but it was also understandable. I think we all silently knew that if we had been those drivers waiting for someone to barrel directly into us, we would have done the same thing. Shit, I wouldn’t have just broken my stick, I would have probably ran for my life.
After the demolition derby was over, we went to find food and rides. As I stood amongst throngs of people slurping down lemonade shake-ups and devouring funnel cakes, I sunk my teeth into a double corn dog. Just as I was attempting to deep throat the remainder of my dog, one of the girls ran up and slapped mustard all over my wife beater. She then ran off, never to be seen again. Most people would be upset about getting mustard slapped on them, but not me. I stood there smiling, rubbing the mustard deep into the white cotton fibers, and anticipating the second round of the Demolition Derby, which starts at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, July 30th.
So, if you don’t have any jean shorts, get some scissors and a pair of your old jeans, slam a few beers and head on down to the Champaign County Fairgrounds. I can assure you that you’ll have a good time. If you see me there, let’s toast to freedom, but more importantly, let’s toast to the Demolition Derby.