A smashing start: Washington County Fair kicks off with demoilition derby

Kaela Sexton had been eagerly anticipating this year’s Washington County Fair for months, but not for the reasons you may think.

The Granville resident and mother of a three-year-old daughter attends the fair nearly every summer, but this year was different.

This year she could drive — not to the fair, she’s been able to do that for years — but in the fair, specifically Monday night’s demolition derby that kicked off this year’s fair, which runs through Sunday. The annual event highlights the county’s agriculture and features motor sports, juried livestock shows, live music, rides and food.

“I just turned 21. I’ve been waiting to do this. It’s my first time. I’m a little nervous and I’m probably going to be pummeled, but I’ll be fine,” said Sexton, dressed in a tie-dyed T-shirt and pair of blue jeans, waiting for her turn to drive.

Sexton, who grew up in Argyle, has been watching the demolition derby for years. Her boyfriend, RJ Fox, competed in his first Washington County Fair demolition derby last year.

“Lots of people from Argyle do it,” she said. “I’ve been coming for years. My aunt used to do it.”

But Sexton wasn’t competing for just herself. She was also competing to raise awareness of breast cancer. She painted her Geo Metro white with a dozen pink breast cancer ribbons splattered across the hood and body of the car.

“I painted pink ribbons for my grandmother who passed away from the disease,” she said.

Sexton was one of approximately 40 competitors who participated in Monday’s derby. Despite a few raindrops, nearly 53 vehicles — some participants brought more than one — turned out for the derby.

For some, the event is a family activity, like a weekend camping excursion, a trip to a ball game, or, well, a night at the fair.

Dan Pettys Sr. and Dan Pettys Jr., from Argyle entered five cars in the derby between them.

The younger Pettys has been competing in derbies for 10 years, but his father was a little reluctant to get behind the wheel at first.

“I actually thought he was nuts, but he convinced me to give it a try and it was a lot of fun,” the elder Pettys said.

Eric Hargett Jr. from Ganesvoort shared a similar story. “My father and uncles did it and now I do,” he said.

Hargett Jr., competing in the derby for the fifth time, battered his way to a victory in Monday’s first heat.

 

 

“They’re bunch of goobers,” said Tim Havens, with the utmost affection. “But we’re all here to have fun and put on a good show.”

Despite the popularity of the event — the grandstand was full to capacity — Havens, who has organized the event for years, said each year it gets harder to attract a full field because the price of scrap metal and junk cars continues to increase making it harder to find affordable vehicles for the derby.

“At one point we had a high of 87 cars and now we’re down to 40 or 50,” he said.

Sexton spent $280 on her car. She said she started working on it in February, removing all the glass, the rear seats and headlights, and cutting a hole in the hood so firemen can extinguish a blaze if the engine catches fire.

“It can be an expensive hobby, but it’s fun as heck,” Sexton said.

The fair continues through Sunday. A full list of activities and events are included below. Admission costs $10 for adults.

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