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Looking for a little destruction? Its nearly derby time at the Washington County Fair

Derby a perennial favorite with smashing competition
by: Alison Gene Smith The derby crowd watches a lot of crashing and smashing.

If previous years are any indicator, people will flock to the Washington County Fair Complex July 31 to watch the destruction resulting from specially-designed cars crashing into one another.

The show fills the arena at the fairgrounds in Hillsboro by promising entertainment that keeps spectators on the edges of their seats.

Each year, eight to 12 entrants drive their cars into the center of the dirt enclosure, where they wait for the signal that allows them to start crashing into one another. Once the derby begins, it's every driver for himself (or herself) as participants ram into other cars, trying to cause irreparable damage to competitors' vehicles.

Viewers watch as the arena fills with smoking rubble.

The goal is to be the last car still running and able to drive around - apparently no easy task.

According to Jamie Kidwell, a Gaston resident and a veteran of the Hillsboro derby, participating cars are eventually towed out of the arena and hauled home. 'If you don't leave it in the arena for the crowd, then you didn't do it right,' he said.

Car owners take the wreckage home with them, where they start strategizing for next year.

The derby in Hillsboro is always a hit, according to participants.

Kidwell, the organizer of the derby's invitational class, said the show perrenially sells out, so it's best to purchase tickets ahead of time or by calling the fairgrounds (see box, page 16A).

Kidwell is a first generation derby driver who's serious about his sport. He'll be competing in this year's invitational class and describes the Washington County derby as 'by far the premier show in Oregon.'

Kidwell said the caliber of the entrants in both the open and invitational classes is equivalent to a national show.

Something unique to the Washington County derby, however, is the admittance of Chrysler Imperials, which Kidwell said are one of the toughest cars out there. Only a few shows allow the use of Imperials, he added.

Kidwell will be driving an Imperial he restored and built for the derby this year. His number will be, like always, 383.

Jerry Sievers, a general contractor from Canby, will be in the open class at this year's derby. Now 42, he's been entering derbies since he was 16 years old.

His car has already been through a few derbies but is still going strong. 'The work that goes into the cars is often more than the spectators realize,' Sievers said.

Every year he works on his derby cars to improve them in new ways, which will help him in his attempts to win the derby. Look for his black Imperial this year - No. 18.

Sievers encourages people to attend because 'it's good, cheap entertainment and it's a good family event.'

Defending invitational champion Bob Morton Jr. will be competing for the win again this year in his pink 1965 Imperial, No. 32.

Grey Ferrando of Stayton plans to drive a black, green and yellow 1966 Chrysler Imperial Grand Coupe in the derby's invitational class. As if that wouldn't make the car easy enough to recognize, it'll be found with No. V13 on it.

Ferrando is a third generation derby driver. He likes the competition and said the Hillsboro derby is 'a hard hittin' show that lasts a long time.'

Hundreds of dollars

Derby drivers invest hundreds of dollars and countless hours of labor into their cars, only to have it destroyed in one night. 'You restore it to wreck it,' said Kidwell.

It all seems worth it, though. The winner of the open class receives a $1,000 prize and the last driver running in the invitational wins $2,500. And both lock up bragging rights.

While the cash prize certainly offers some incentive, Kidwell admits he isn't out there for the money. 'We're not doing this because we have to; we're doing it because we love it,' he said.

Kidwell wants the sport to prosper and encourages up-and-coming drivers to participate. He's willing to help anybody interested in demolition derbies in any way he can.

This year's derby is shaping up to be a good one, noted Kidwell, who looks forward to the excitement and adrenaline rush the competition and crowd provide.

He hopes for a big crowd.

'Come see the top builders and drivers in the Northwest compete for the trophy and bragging rights,' he said.

Info on the Web

The 2011 demolition derby starts at 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 31 and includes an open class and an invitational class.

Motocross opens the show and there is a concession stand available in the arena in addition to the wide variety of fair foods available throughout the grounds.

Visit www.faircomplex.com/fair/arena-shows.php for more information on the demolition derby and the 2011 Washington County Fair.