Legends in the making

Published 9:02 pm Saturday, October 9, 2010

Friday at the Peanut Festival marked the first time I’d covered a major event since wrecking my knee taking a photo of a little boy at the Taste of Suffolk. Some people have old football injuries to brag about; I’ve got a photography injury. Perfect.

After visiting my orthopedist Friday afternoon and learning that my right knee has a date with a scalpel, I headed for the festival, more than a little apprehensive about getting back behind the lens, as it were. But there was a demolition derby to cover, along with a concert by Molly Hatchet, and both were calling my name in one way or another.

I should confess before we go any further that I’ve never attended one of Suffolk’s Peanut Festival demolition derbies. When I was growing up here, the derby wasn’t on the festival schedule, and for most of the time it has been a featured event, I’ve lived elsewhere.

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I must say that it was a bit louder than I expected, though Molly Hatchet was even louder. But the images I came away with and the excitement I could feel in the air were worth the headache. I’d seen such events on television before, but I hadn’t been prepared for the sense of fun that I got from the participants. In an event whose total prize purse was only $1,500 over all heats, these guys clearly weren’t expecting to become rich by outlasting their competitors.

“It’s all about being able to talk junk to your friends later on,” said John Branch, who was hanging out with a group of friends by a black station wagon with a pink and white design painted on it. It was Branch’s 12th derby. And he and his friends, all from Suffolk, were eager to pose for a photo with the car, which didn’t fare well when the derby finally got under way.

They were a bunch of guys having a good time together, much as any group of male friends, mine included. Maybe we don’t all go for smashing up cars, but most of us can understand the attraction to it, as well as the joy of being able to share that fun with our best friends.

As it often does, my camera helped me to make some new friends out there in the derby staging area. In a sport without a true local following and without serious television opportunities, posing in front of your garishly painted junk heap for the local newspaper apparently is just close enough to 15 minutes of actual fame.

I like that. Legends in the making. All on the pages of the Suffolk News-Herald. Perfect.