BERRYVILLE — Michael Edwards and Brady Holmes, both 17-year-old rising seniors at Clarke County High School, each won $50 for their performance in the Clarke County Fair Demolition Derby on Saturday, although they had to invest about $400 in each of the cars they destroyed. 

But it's not about the money, Brady said. "It's just fun." 

"Just fun" might sum up the 65th annual Clarke County Fair, which wrapped up Saturday night. Organizers say between 25,000 and 30,000 people came through the fairgrounds last week. 

"This week has been good," festival Chairman Tommy Cather said on Saturday, adding that there were no major incidents.

Presented by the Clarke County Ruritan Club, the fair features numerous agricultural and homemaking-related activities and competitions as well as concerts, pageants, carnival rides, craft and food vendors. This year, the fair closed with a performance by platinum-selling recording artist Clay Walker. 

It is the largest fundraiser for the Ruritan Club, which owns and operates the fairgrounds.

Club Treasurer Elmer Lloyd said all the maintenance on the fairgrounds and its buildings are the responsibility of the club, although the grounds are used for numerous community events throughout the year. Recently, the Ruritan Building was outfitted with a new air-conditioning system to replace its 1973 system.

"It was getting hard to find parts," Lloyd said. "That was one of the most significant expenses." 

Cather, who works 7 a.m. to midnight each day of the fair, said putting on the fair wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the 200 volunteers who give their time. The Ruritan Club only has about 70 members, he noted, so "the club couldn't do it by itself." 

Luckily, the people of Clarke County come together to make the fair a success each year, Cather said. "People in this county, they take their vacations for the fair." 

Lloyd, who works a full-time job in Winchester, takes a week of vacation each year for the fair and has for 37 years. "It's the only way I can do it,"  he said.

Robbie Holmes, father of Demolition Derby contestant Brady, lives in Berryville and owns Bridges Auto Center in Purcellville. He said he advises his son and his friends on the mechanics when they're building derby cars, but they have to do the work themselves. 

"It fits right in," he said of his shop, which regularly comes into possession of junk cars. "It gives kids something to do." 

The Demolition Derby kicked off at noon Saturday and almost immediately the air was filled with dust and car exhaust. Several heats pitted drivers, all wearing helmets, against one another as they struggled to be the last machine operating on the track. 

Most cars would be lifted, pulled or pushed off the track by a tractor. 

Brady and Michael each participated in the second heat of the "Figure 8" competition, in which drivers wound their way around large tractor tires. 

Holmes said the derby is a part of his family history and they all enjoy it together. "As long as there's a smile on their face, mission accomplished,"  Holmes said.

— Contact Onofrio Castiglia at ocastiglia@winchesterstar.com

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