The Moniteau County Fair arena was packed Saturday night for a revived demolition derby event, organized by the local Timbrook Motorsports Productions.
Not only has attendance dramatically increased over the last few years, but participating cars were up nearly three times over last year.
"It was huge; the grandstands were jam-packed full," organizer Ernie Timbrook said.
When he saw the number dwindling for what had been a Thursday night event, Timbrook and the Moniteau County Fair board decided to move the full-sized car event to Saturday night.
Then local businesses chipped in to raise the purse from $800 to $2,000 for top prize.
"I think raising the purse helped get more cars," Timbrook said. "I was overwhelmed by the community support."
The 4-year-old motorsports production company also elevated the event with required inspections and adhering to a standard set of rules, he said.
During the initial inspection on a lift provided by the company, 25 of the 27 participating cars did not pass, Timbrook said. However, that allowed them to make adjustments prior to the derby.
The inspection and rules provide for driver safety as well as equality among drivers, he said. Several drivers were impressed with the additions, he said.
"Having a good set of rules, and drivers know we're going to follow them, earns the respect of the drivers and word of mouth that will draw more drivers in," Timbrook said.
The production company, which works fairs across the state, also hosted a backseat driver contest. Local celebrities drove an obstacle course, but the driver is blindfolded and had to take direction from the passenger, whose microphone allowed the crowd to listen along.
They also added fireworks at the end and a driver introduction at the beginning, complete with a backdrop, lights and a fog machine.
"We wanted to pump it up and make it cool for the fans and get the drivers recognized," Timbrook said.