we have got to see this! It was an ad for the Hillsdale,
Michigan County Fair. The entertainment for the opening night
was the Second Annual Combine Demolition Derby. We could hardly
stand it. Long a fantasy of mine to demolish a 73 Chrysler
in a derby, the next best thing had to
be seeing giant farm implements annihilating each other in the mud
and dust of a county fair track. Veronica, who grew up
farming belt was a bit confused, Arent combines those
machines that do something or other with crops? Oh yeah, they
harvest crops, are extremely huge and this is gonna be great! Immediate
Googling was needed for more information on Hillsdale and this wacky,
make the pot even sweeter, we found out that Hillsdale is
the town in Michigan that elected the 18 year old highschooler,
Michael Sessions, for mayor and proudly proclaims themselves
as home of The Most Popular Fair on Earth. Sweet.
Not the biggest, not the best, not the oldest or even most
famous, but the
most popular. Intriguing.
A bit more research, a few phone calls and we were on our way. We arrived in Hillsdale, a charming little village with a Wal-Mart
on the outskirts and more than half of their main street storefronts
closed. The décor of the town seemed to be flag-draped with intense
lawn ornamentation. Hillsdale could possibly be the yard ball
capital of the world. And hey, who doesnt love a good
Victorian garden gazing globe?
We checked in to our room at the Hillsdale Motel, a piece
complimentary lawn chairs for watching the traffic go
by on route 99. Excited to get a bit of flavor before seeing
the main event, we immediately
headed off in the direction of the fairgrounds.
got our tickets and joined the line so
we could stake out the best possible vantage point. With some fresh
roasted peanuts and the obligatory county fair sausage, we were
The machines entered the arena for the judging, by applause, of
the Best Decorated and the $100 prize. Competition was
stiff with numerous great slogans lovingly spray painted across
the sheet metal. We Eat Deere, Git er Done
and She Thinks My Combines Sexy were among our
favorites. Tributes to sweethearts and sponsoring farms adorned
them all, as well as some interesting color schemes.
gave us some time to size up the drivers. They were young, determined
and very appreciative of their pit crews, standing on the sidelines
with welding torches, extra parts and great ideas. The competition
was over when The General Lee sounded his horn that blasted Dixie.
Nothing fires up a crowd way up north in Michigan like a confederate
flag festooned combine that plays Dixie.
rodeo-style announcer had the crowd count down to the green
flag and they were off. The site and sound of multi-ton, twelve
foot high, thirty foot long heavy equipment monsters bashing head-on
at full throttle brought us and the entire crowd to its feet cheering
and laughing. Yes, laughing. The crowd was caught up in a combination
of awe and maniacal glee. Holy crap! It
was great. Even better than
expected. Combines are big, powerful, heavy machines that are made
for harvesting grain in peaceful open fields, not for combat. They
have no natural enemies so their shells are thin and defenses weak.
The damage was immediate and extensive. Tires shredded, parts flew
off, entire axles were removed, all in a matter of seconds.
the initial carnage, it began to settle into a war of attrition.
According to the rules–yes, there are rules–there are two
ways to be eliminated. Either your machine is completely disabled
or you are pushed out of the ring.
Clouds of diesel smoke filled the air as the survivors played out
their strategies. Once the smaller and
weaker were thinned from
the herd, it began to resemble sumo wrestling as the big boys settled
into imposing their massive wills upon each other. Sometimes a twosome
would gang up to shove another out of the ring, then turn on each
other with metal crunching ferocity. As this stand-off phase proceeded,
radiators burst and engines died smoky deaths. A real treat for
the senses, the grins never left our faces. Amazing sights, sounds
and especially smells–while standing a mere few dozen feet away
from this pure mayhem. By the end it took forklifts to drag off
combine, initially purchased at a price upward of a hundred thousand
dollars, was awarded $600.00 and bragging rights for the year.
Certainly not doing it for the money, the winner was asked to
give the crowd his thoughts on his experience in the derby. He
pronounced it A great alternative motorsport.
We have to