Derby A Hit With Crowd

Sport proves popular, attracts 2,000 fans

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It's official -- there is plenty of room on the sports and recreation scene for one of the wackiest entertainments ever featured in the Rim Country.

An estimated 2,000-plus fans showed up Sunday at the Payson Event Center to enthusiastically cheer 10 adrenaline-crazed drivers as they crashed their cars into one another.

For drivers and spectators alike, the inaugural event -- which was part of the Northern Gila County Fair -- was metal-crunching, bone-jarring, crashing, smashing action at its best.

Each heat began with a warm-up competition that featured drivers battling one another to see who could be the first to drive over -- and squash -- a watermelon strategically placed in the middle arena.

For the final event, a pumpkin replaced the watermelon.

"I don't know why we changed, it just turned out that way," Town of Payson Parks Manager Nelson Beck said.

In the first heat, new Payson resident Jay Crowe earned $100 for being the first to bash the melon. Jim Atwater squashed the melon prior to the second heat.

In the finals, Jim Atwater flexed his muscle as the event's most accomplished fruit destroyer.

When the dust settled through the two heats and a final round that featured all 10 cars, a trio of seasoned Phoenix drivers had eliminated Payson's six rookie drivers.

"The prize money went to Phoenix, but the local guys are ready for anybody at the next go-around," Beck said.

The event champion, Steven Quills, pocketed $696. Mickey Reetz, the runner-up received $348 and the bronze medalist, Atwater, earned $116.

Although the derby was more than a little offbeat from the traditional rodeos and ropings seen in the Payson Event Center, Beck called it an overwhelming success and a great afternoon of entertainment.

"Everyone had a great time, the sportsmanship was great and we couldn't have asked for it to be any better," he said.

Beck anticipates the demolition derby will become an annual event at the Northern Gila County Fair.

The Payson Parks and Recreation Department, Mazatzal Casino and Honeycutt Rodeos sponsored the derby.

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