TRAVERSE CITY -- Brandon Henderson worked on his 1992 Mercury Grand Marquis since April. This weekend all his effort could be destroyed.
On Saturday, the 27-year-old Grawn man planned to take it to the Northwestern Michigan Fair, bang around a bit, and perhaps emerge a Demo Derby champion. Henderson began entering the derby as a teenager. In 2007, he drove a Pontiac Bonneville to his best finish, despite sad circumstances.
"My dad usually helps me out on my cars. Last year he ended up dying four days before the derby," Henderson said.
This year, Henderson is back again, for that "big adrenaline rush," and because he likes working on cars.
The non-stop action of the Tough Truck Competition tonight and the smash and bash of the Demo Derby on Saturday will entertain grandstand guests at the fair's 100-year anniversary. Both events start at 7 p.m. and are fair favorites.
"I think it's been a sell-out show since day one," said James Jones, who helped organize the Tough Truck Competition.
What's the allure?
"It's family oriented for one. It's good for children and adults to watch. It's high action at all times," Jones said. "It's just complete carnage."
He expected from 75 to more than 100 competitors for the off-road obstacle course race. Trucks must navigate jumps, slog through mud and get through "anything you can do with four-wheel drive," Jones said. One truck races on the track at a time, taking 30 seconds to a minute to finish.
"It's pretty much as soon as the flags drop, they put the pedal to the floor and just hold on," Jones said.
Saturday brings out fans of the annual Demo Derby. This event is all about the "crash and bang" -- cars getting creamed while travelling 20 to 40 mph, said fair board member Wayne Strang. There are a few keys to succeeding in the derby.
"The main thing is a good motor, a good tranny and a solid car," Strang said.
Between 50 and 60 cars are expected to enter, with first place taking home $1,500. Henderson concentrates on watching his front end when he drives, but there are instances when he senses the crowd's excitement.
"You can't hear too much when the cars are running. You can tell when somebody makes a good hit because you see them standing," Henderson said.
Tickets to the Tough Truck Competition and Demo Derby are $8 for adults and $5 for children under 12. The fairgrounds are located on Blair Townhall Road south of Traverse City, and the fair runs through Saturday. For more information, visit the fair's Web site at www.northwesternmichiganfair.net.