Rule that could doom demos is overkill

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Once again the state has come up with a policy that may remedy one situation but doesn’t fit in another, yet is universally applied. 

In this case, we’re not actually talking about new regulation, just one that suddenly may be strictly enforced.  We’re talking about the rule saying that spectators can’t be within 30 feet of a demolition derby. 

That particular rule was largely set up for race car tracks.  In that case, 30 feet from the action may even be a little close.  Those cars are flying. 

But anyone who’s watched a demolition derby knows it’s a far cry from a race where the point is speed.  Top speed is ten miles an hour in a demo where the field is crowded, the arena small, and the point to inflict damage to the other fellow’s vehicle.  By the time final heats come around, cars are so battered a driver is lucky to have one that can still limp along enough to even hit an opponent.  In the end, the cars mostly just gasp and give out.

For the safety of drivers, glass has been removed from the cars, gas tanks have been moved.  Emergency personnel stand by and quickly put out fires or help hurt drivers, though the latter has been extraordinarily rare. 

We have never heard of an incident where a spectator was hurt.

In the case of the Orleans County Fair, one must wonder if state officials have visited the site, or if they suspect that physics and gravity aren’t givens.  We’re for safety, of course, but spectators are in the grandstand, which borders the track.  No, they are not 30 feet away from the action, but front row seats are ten feet up from the track, others higher. 

Is the state really worried that a battered junker is going to levitate ten feet and leap into the stands?  That seems somewhere between unlikely and impossible. 

County fairs are an important part of rural life.  With the decline of dairy, they’re struggling.  For a long time demos have been the big draw, probably what keeps a lot of rural fairs alive financially.  At a legislative committee hearing last week, a fair representative said 60 percent of the Orleans County Fair’s proceeds come from the demo.  And they are not wallowing in money.

Jason Sicard, president of the Orleans County Fair Association, said it would cost around $104,000.  That’s a lot of money for a small county fair.

Fortunately, Caledonia Senator Joe Benning, who serves on the rules committee, which oversees such things, understands that and is working on behalf of the fairs. 

Doesn’t Vermont, especially rural Vermont, have enough problems to address without state officials honing in on enforcement of a rule that could kill rural county fairs and a long tradition?  — T.S.

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