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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Demolition Derby a big draw during 164th annual Comber Fair

By Greg Layson

Comber Fair’s Vice President, Rob Duquette, is pretty sure he knows all the reasons people love a good ol’ demolition derby, a featured highlight that took place during the 164th annual festival over the weekend.

“Look at the environment. Look at what’s around us,” he said excitedly, just moments before the 47th Annual Comber Fair Demolition Derby on Sunday. “It’s the smash and the crash and the noise and the smoke.

“Seeing everything bent and wrecked. It’s incredible. Everybody loves to see it,” he added.

The event is so popular that fans braved a blazing sun that got nearly as hot as the engines and began claiming their grandstand seats more than two-hours before the event. At one point, moments before the first green flag dropped, panic shot across volunteer radio lines: There were no more wristbands at the front gate.

“That’s the reward,” Duquette said of the fans. “You see everybody screaming and hollering, rooting for their favourites.

“And when the radiator blows and the steam flies, or a tire blows, you know this is why they love this environment.”

More than 50 cars, from as far away as Sarnia and Wyoming, entered the derby, which boasted six divisions – seven if you include the junior division, in which youngsters smashed and crashed their battery-powered plastic Power Wheels.

“Our future drivers,” Duquette said.

Adult driver Mike Blackman knows why he competes.

“It’s legal road rage,” he said as he prepped his stripped down 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee in the pits. “It’s a grown-up version of bumper cars.

“Why pay for anger management when you have this as therapy?”

Blackman said he spent 100-hours and “too much money” – and he didn’t show his wife the receipts – preparing for the event. He named the Jeep “KTS,” after his kids: Karter, Theo, and Soren.

But, the event is not for the faint of heart, warned Kris Hornick, who won a gruelling contest in the six-cylinder division to open the derby.

“Your first time, you will be nervous. You’ll have a lot of butterflies, and you will be shaking at the wheel,” Hornick said, who figures he’s participated in more than 100 events now.

He won $2,000 for being the last car running. And, like most drivers, he’ll invest that in a new car to wreck.

“It’s fantastic when you win,” Hornick added. “I felt that it was not going to end. But, you just hope that you come out on the winning end.”

Hornick, who was able to drive his dilapidated car out of the ring, hoped he gave the fans what they came for.

“The entertainment is the rush for everybody, right?” he said. “You see something get smashed up and it’s a thrill. Everyone loves it.”

The derby wasn’t the only reason to visit the 164th Comber Fair. The weekend was packed with events, including a baby contest, the 4-H achievement day, live entertainment, mini tractor pull, and the midway.

Duquette said Sunday, before the fairgrounds closed, that attendance was setting a record pace, despite some Friday rain.

“People scattered, but they didn’t leave,” Duquette said. “I’d say it was a success again this year, and we look forward to celebrating 165 years next year.”


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