AutoMatters: Firefighter Demolition Derby & STAR TREK at the 2013 San Diego County Fair

By Jan R. Wagner

The 2013 San Diego County Fair ( is on now through midnight, July 4, after the spectacular 9 p.m. fireworks show.

County fairs are wonderful fun and a great entertainment value. Where else can you find so much to see and do, and eat, all in one place and at such a ridiculously low price?

My main goal for the first day of this year’s fair was to shoot photos of the demolition derby but, as expected, I ended up doing much more. At the end of the day I left tired but happy.

My day began with a free and quick shuttle bus ride to the fairgrounds from one of the convenient off-site parking areas. Full price admission is only $14 for adults (much less for kids and seniors). Inside the gate, a vendor was giving away free, full-sized sample cups of Müller Yogurt with fruit. It tasted pretty good. Let me know if you agree. They’re scheduled to be near the O’Brien gate every day of the fair.

I headed over to the Del Mar Arena, which was the location for the 23


annual Farmers Insurance Fire & Safety Expo/Firefighter Demolition Derby, presented by Viejas. While I waited for the demo derby to begin, I checked out the safety exhibits at the expo. Kids and adults alike were introduced to fire safety and CPR skills, as well as other emergency services. Outside the arena, crews were making last minute preparations to the firefighters’ demolition derby cars. That was our final chance to see the cars with relatively straight body panels, and all the wheels and tires properly attached. One of the cars was a Lincoln Continental Mark series. My dad had one of those! It was his pride and joy.

Dave Stall, my former radio show co-host, was announcing so I went over to say hi. I got there just in time to see the 2013 Burn Run Parade of vehicles from several fire departments.

At 1 p.m. the demolition derby began with the preliminary heats. The cars suffered heavy damage. Some had their trunks caved in all the way to the rear window area. A scary moment happened when one of the cars got hit hard, leaked gas and burst into flames. Luckily Angel, driving for Team Cal Fire, got out OK with only some loose teeth from the impact. Her car’s plastic fuel tank, which had been strapped down in the area formerly occupied by the back seat, had moved due to the force of the impact. A protruding bolt punctured the tank, causing the fuel to spill. Fortunately Angel was wearing a fire suit and was able to bail out, thanks to her car’s quick-release racing seatbelts.

Between the preliminary heats and the finals at 4:45 p.m., the teams tried to repair their wounded cars as best they could, so as to get them back into running condition. It was fascinating watching them use the jaws, sledge hammers, cutters and other tools to pull the bodywork away from the tires, and patch together radiators and dislodged hoses in the engine compartments.

The finals were fun to watch, as the surviving firefighters competed against each other for bragging rights and a coveted trophy. If you missed this crash-fest, there will be one more demolition derby at the fair on June 30, as well as monster trucks and racing on other days. See the event calendar for this and other west coast fairs at

Some of you may have seen and, as I do, sadly miss the incredible STAR TREK exhibit that used to be at the Las Vegas Hilton. I have good news for you. Much of what was there was saved and divided into three exhibits. One of these is “STAR TREK The Exhibition” at the Surfside Race Place at the fairgrounds. The cost is $5 and well worth it. See the costumes, props and storyboards, and be sure to get your photo taken as you sit in Captain Kirk’s chair on the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

I highly recommend the free wine tasting with Sam Bass, daily in the infield at 4 and 5 p.m. Arrive early (seating is limited) to taste four San Diego County wines and then keep the souvenir glass, with its 2013 fair logo.

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Copyright © 2013 by Jan Wagner – #284r1