A smashing tradition at Walworth County Fair
IF YOU GO
What: Walworth County Fair demolition derby
Where: Grandstand at the Walworth County Fairgrounds, 411 E Court St., Elkhorn.
When: Monday, Sept. 3, at 1:45 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Cost: Admission at the gate is $9 for adults 13 and older; $3 for children 6 to 12. Children 5 and younger are admitted free.
ELKHORN Even after 26 years of smashing cars, Ray Schiller still gets butterflies before a demolition derby.
“After that many years of riding, I still learn stuff year after year,” said Schiller, 42, of Elkhorn.
Monday will be his 26th demolition derby and his 24th at the Walworth County Fair. Schiller has gotten to the semifinals many times, and last took first place around 1997.
“When I drive in, I just hope I didn’t forget anything stupid,” he said.
Preparation begins months before the derby with a hunt for the right vehicle. Early this spring Schiller found his 1985 Pontiac Parisienne.
“You go out hunting a car and strip it down completely—take all the glass out, any of the details, plastics … pieces that will fly off or end up hurting somebody,” he said.
“Me, personally, I strip the car down completely, take the whole wire harness off it and rely on a couple wires. I have hot, and I have ground. If anything is going wrong, I know where to go.”
Safety is important. He moves the fuel tank to behind the driver’s seat to better protect it from impacts. Then his wife and daughter paint the car, always leaving the driver’s door white so it contrasts with the rest of the vehicle. Smashing into an opponents driver’s door is a no-no.
“The biggest thing is: Make sure you have good brakes,” he said. “I like putting bigger tires on the back side. I actually put extension springs on the back, so if you’re going to hit me, you’re not actually going to hit me.”
“There are secrets I can tell you, and there are secrets I can’t tell you,” he said.
One of Schiller’s opponents will be Tracy Murphy, 21, who has been involved with demolition derbies since she was a little girl. She’s an Elkhorn native who now lives in Jefferson County.
Her father participated every year until he had surgery and was unable to continue.
Then her sister picked up the family legacy and ran in the 2006 derby. Her sister planned to run again in 2007 but was killed in an automobile accident. She was 17.
“I started doing it in September of 2007 after my sister died,” Murphy said. “I ran her car in her honor and put a memorial on top of it.”
“She had a car all ready; it was the one she had run the previous year. It was run-able, so I did it for her.”
She runs in her sister’s memory.
“I carry a picture of her whenever I do the demo,” Murphy said.
Monday will be no different. For the third time, Murphy will enter the Walworth County Fair arena with her sister in mind.
Memories aside, Murphy has one goal at the Walworth County Fair.
“The only thing on my mind is to inflict as much damage as possible, while being able to keep my car running, drivable,” she said.
“It’s the best adrenaline rush. It’s so much fun. It’s very addicting.”