July 4 at the fairgrounds

The main events – the demolition derby and fireworks – weren’t until evening, but dozens of people spent their Fourth of July afternoon at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

“I’ve been racing a lot and jumping,” 6-year-old Hailey Hendershot of Marietta said as she took a break from the inflatable obstacle courses and bounce houses in the junior fair building.

“I’ve been jumping and running,” added her cousin, Timber Butler, also 6, from Cameron, W.Va.

When asked who won the most races, both girls had the same answer – “Me!”

Dark clouds that promised rain but seldom delivered led the inflatables to be set up inside and likely also lowered interest in a new addition to the fairgrounds’ Independence Day activities, a car show. Only four vehicles were set up at the multipurpose building, but the owners still enjoyed chatting about their vehicles with whoever happened by.

Marietta resident Larry Caseman, 78, said the idea for a car show at the fairgrounds on the Fourth is great, but the weather and the fact that Thursday’s event was the first probably contributed to the low turnout.

“But you’ve got to start somewhere,” he said.

Lower Salem resident Damian Sayres, 21, said he could see it becoming more of a draw in the future.

“If there’s more cars and stuff, I’ve got a feeling quite a bit of people will be showing up,” he said.

Sayres’ fiancee Jennifer Stafford, 20, was enamored with the custom blue 2011 Mustang that Calhoun County, W.Va., resident Clay Rader brought to the fairgrounds. When someone jokingly asked Rader if he was also going to enter it in the evening’s demolition derby, she leapt to the car’s defense.

“I would never want to see a nice car like that in the derby,” she said. “I would cry.”

Rader has had the car for about a year, adding a custom paint job of a large cobra added to both sides, along with numerous modifications. He wouldn’t even dream of entering it in the derby.

“Unless somebody wrecks it, I’ll probably keep it ’til I die,” he said.

Friends Matt Erb, 21, of Marietta, and Jacob Hughes, 22, of Beverly, had older cars with less intricate paint jobs ready to smash in the derby. The friends admitted that if push came to shove, they wouldn’t hesitate to deliver some punishment to each other’s vehicles.

“It’s all about fun,” Erb said. “Where else can you go and tear cars up? Hit as hard as you want and go as fast as you want?”

Because the holiday fell in the middle of the week this year, there was no carnival set up. But that didn’t earn any complaints from the children rushing from one inflatable attraction to another in the junior fair building.

One of those was Draven Stacy, 5, of Fleming, whose parents, Dennis and Elizabeth, came early to let him play and “wear him out,” Dennis Stacy, 44, laughed.

“It seems kind of really relaxed this year,” said Elizabeth Stacy, 31. “But he’ll play on these for hours.”

Fair board President Paul Barth said the early afternoon turnout was lower than he’d hoped, but the numbers would swell as the derby approached.