PARTY CRASHERS: School bus derby delivers a crunching good time

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Early on in the competition when all nine buses were on the field and in the hunt for the trophy (Rochester Voice photos)

The like their metal twisted, their glass shattered and their bumpers obliterated, and they got all of it Saturday night as nine school buses destined for the junkyard anyway got a speed pass to the promised land during the School Bus Derby at the Granite State Fair.

We got our tickets in advance and arrived 15 minutes before showtime, but by then, "There are no seats left," said the wrist band checker.

No matter. We were happy to watch from the fence, closer to the action and the delicious sound of heavy metal ... crashes.

When the buses finally rolled in and took a couple of laps around the grandstand oval the crowd let out a thunderous roar like they were gladiators entering the Coliseum.

The first bus to be eliminated is carted off by a lift truck at around the 25-minute mark

Never having been before, I wondered why they were lining up at both ends of oval facing away from each other.

Then the announcer said, "Here we go: Five, four, three, two, one, and I realized that's how they start the derby, with the buses all backing up into each other in the middle of the ring, going some 15 or 20 miles an hour. That's an impact of up to 40 mph - you driver's ed students know that - and

Steam pours out of a couple of buses that were knocked out with smashed radiators

that can cause a major crunch factor.

Once the action got under way it was bedlam in the stands as onlookers watched as the drivers stalked each other looking for an opening to deliver a major dent to their opposition. The roars grew louder as they saw a driver's anticipated run at a rival.

When the first bus got rolled on its side by a pair of opponents the crowd roared its approval. The bus was carted off the field like carrion, while the crowd cheered for the brave driver who was eliminated.

A few minutes later

The white bus endured a battered rear end long enough to come in second

another bus was disabled and dragged to the side of the oval, leaving seven.

Around this time a short bus emblazoned with Humana on it entered the ring. The bus was a little more nimble than the other full sized buses and wreaked havoc on the big boys, knocking at least one other bus out of the competition.

But, alas, the Humana

The derby came to a sudden end when the white bus got tangled with the eventual winner

bus finally met its own demised after its reign of terror.

That left four buses, two of which suffered radiator damage, blew some smoke and were knocked out.

The final two jousted looking to line up a mortal blow for several minutes before they both came to rest after a final collision.

In the past I'd oftentimes been at the fair in the evening and heard the tremendous roar of the crowd inside the grandstand.

Now I know why they were roaring. This was great entertainment.

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