It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you
think of Independence Day, but the demolition derby is a favorites
of all American pasttimes.
In Rutland, the derby is a central part of the annual
The Stoney Roberts Summer Smash will be lighting up the Rutland
Fairgrounds again this year on July 4th. Gates open at 4:30 p.m.
with vendor concessions and food available. The competitions start
at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed by a fireworks display sponsored
by the Rutland Chamber of Commerce at 9:45 p.m.
Stoney's uncommon start
Stoney Roberts was a motorsports daredevil and stuntman who got his
start as a 15 year old in 1936. Stoney's cousin was able to
convince him to be the human battering ram - a stunt where he lay
on a cars hood as it drove through a flaming wall. It may sound
traumatic, but the experience had young Stoney hooked and in the
years that followed he became one of the nation's best crash and
His career was threatened when he lost his arm in an accident in
1949. He was told his life as a stuntman was over, but he insisted
on continuing to drive. By the mid 1950's Stoney Roberts was
producing and starring in his own thrill shows despite his
handicap. Looking for a grand finale, he recalled seeing junk cars
competing in an endurance event where the drivers smashed into each
other and the last car still running won. The event was popular
amongst the crowd and had even gotten some attention from
television. Stoney produced a similar event with his own team of
stunt drivers and the crowd went wild. He remembered overhearing a
spectator say "I would pay money to smash a car like that."
Over the following years, the show evolved into the Stoney
Roberts Demolition Derby. Stoney passed away in 1992 but handed
over the company to his son Frank Roberts who is proud to have
taken Demolition Derbies into the 21st century. In the last 41
years the company has produced derbies in 23 states east of the
Mississippi. During those years the Roberts company has supplied
some great entertainment and competition for the drivers of
Vermont. They have been coming to The Rutland Fairgrounds for many
"The difference between then and now is that a common person can
be a daredevil for a day. All they have to do is provide a car, pay
the entrance fee and take the wildest ride of their lives," Frank
Roberts says. "Sometimes it is a life changing experience. It is
truly the adrenaline junkies' paradise."
Roberts also explained that Wednesday's event will consist of
several heats featuring four-, six- and eight-cylinder cars
followed by small pickup trucks. The winners of their respective
heats will battle again in a final heat.
The two vehicles that manage to survive all that will go on to
compete in the Vermont State Demolition Derby Championship which
will be held during the Rutland State Fair later this summer. The
cash purse for the derby on Wednesday is $1,800 and the prize for
the Vermont State Championship is $2,200. With prizes like these
you can expect some serious competition!
Rutland Fairgrounds is located at 175 South Main Street in
Rutland. Tickets are $12 and $20.