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A crashing good time is had at demolition derby

The Montezuma County Fair demolition derby was an exercise in destruction for the sake of fun and adrenaline. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
More than 30 cars and trucks participate at fair event

Hundreds of fans turned out to enjoy the destruction and mud of the Montezuma County Fair Demolition Derby Saturday night.



5 p.m.: 4-H/FFA Goat Show

6 p.m.: Goat Roping


9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Exhibits open

9 a.m.: Horticulture judging

8 a.m.: 4-H/FFA Rabbit show

11 a.m.: 4-H/FFA Sheep show

10 a.m.: 4-H & Open Poultry show

2 p.m.: Chicken Chase, ages 3-8

3:15 p.m.: 4-H/FFA Beef show

6 p.m.: Team Roping books


8:30 a.m.: 4-H/FFA Swine show

9 a.m.: Rooster Crowing

9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.: Exhibits open

10 a.m.: 4-H Demonstration

10:30 a.m.: Bunnies scavenger hunt

11 a.m.: Egg & Spoon Race

11:30 a.m.: 4-H Cake Decorating

11:30 a.m.: Tug of War

11:30 a.m.: Pee-Wee FFA round robin

1 p.m.: Sheep Scramble ages 8-18

2 p.m.: Chicken Chase ages 3-8

2:30 p.m.: Capture the Flag

3 p.m.: Grand Round Robin

3-4 p.m.: Money Hunt


9 a.m.: Chicken Chase ages 3-8

11:30 a.m.: Greased Pig Chase

12 p.m.: Chili/Salsa Judging $2

12 p.m.: Barrel Race

2 p.m.: Junior Livestock Sale

6 p.m.: TrueWestern rodeo

6 p.m.: Mud Bog Starts

Note: See a full schedule at https://montezumacountyfair.com/schedule-2/

More than 30 cars and trucks entered the event, which features vehicles in an arena repeatedly smashing into each other. The last one running wins.

The local derby is put on by promoter Gene Felker and a team of volunteers.

Heavy rains created muddy conditions on the course and in the pit, but the skies cleared by start time.

Drivers came from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Felker said his derbies have a more open format with fewer rules as a way to attract more competitors. The total prize purse was $13,000.

“I do demo derbies my style. The fans don’t really care who wins, they want to see full-blown carnage,” he said. “This community has been so supportive of the racetrack. The stands have been packed.”

A new event this year is the passenger derby. The car is driven by a woman, and a man sits shotgun and operates a hand throttle.

“It’s funny; couples are yelling at each other, and learn to work as a team,” Felker said.

Other derby classes are are demo cross, compact cars, full-size, and trucks. Competitors range from kids to people in their 60s and 70s.

Zeke Gallegos, age 11, of Romeo, Colorado, competed in the full-size auto derby. In October, he won the youth derby division, and was earned the title of “Mad Dog” for the number of hits he made.

“I like to win,” he said. “I try and take out the front wheels.”

Zeke Gallegos, and his son, Zeke Jr., regularly participate in demolition derbies. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

Chester Cordova is a veteran derby competitor, with 40 years of experience. He attends 10 to 12 derbies per year and often takes home the win.

“You have to be patient, and be choosy on when to take your shots,” he said. “It’s an adrenaline rush. What I love is building the cars, modifying, welding, doing it all yourself to set up for the win.”

Competitors offered advice to those beginning in the sport.

Secure all your ignition and ground wires, or your car won’t restart after a hit. Install a fail-safe ignition box. Crush in the trunk to avoid having it fall off when hit and drag on the ground. Modifying engines to run cool even if the radiator is blasted apart.

More than 30 modified cars and trucks smashed and bashed their way through the Montezuma County Fair Demolition Derby Saturday at the county fairgrounds race track. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

The best cars are the more durable GMs and Chevys from the 1970s. Heavy-duty Cadillacs and Buicks were in the mix as well.

Pat Hunter, of Cedar City, Utah, competes in the passenger derby event with his wife, Amanda, and daughter in a 1989 Cadillac.

“It takes teamwork and timing, it looks like you are fighting, but all the yelling is because you can’t hear over the engines,” he said.

Louis Gallegos has been competing in demolition derbies for 10 years. His 1976 Gran Prix features a 600 horsepower motor than ran him $8,000. He likes the more open format of the derby as well, with less rules on modifying.

“The more work you put into a car, the better the show,” he said.

Derby cars take violent hits. Gallegos broke his arm two years ago during a derby, and bailed out another time as his vehicle erupted in flames.

Kyler Sanders, of Cortez, was in his first demolition derby.

He was rolling in a Nissan Quest minivan.

“I’m excited to crash it up,” said Sanders, 17.

Kyler Sanders, of Cortez, unloads a Nissan minivan to compete in the Montezuma County Fair demolition derby Saturday night. (Jim Mimaga/The Journal)
Pat Hunter and his daughter, Rae, get ready to compete in the passenger derby. The driver steers and brakes, and the passenger controls a hand throttle. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)