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Monster truck thrills and stunt-driving spills come to fair

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GOUVERNEUR — The crowd roared and engines roared louder for big thrills, big stunts and one really big truck at the “Triple Threat” show at the Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair on Friday night.

The show, a long-standing fair tradition, brings three groups of stunt motorists from across the country together to show off their skills.

The highlight was “Toxic,” a massive monster truck that closed out the night by ramping off of the wreckage of cars it had crushed.

Before Toxic’s big finale, the East Coast Extreme Quad Warriors raced their four-wheelers and Tonny Petersen’s Hell Drivers practiced some old-fashioned stunt driving.

“This is the more traditional type auto thrill show, paying homage to the past,” said show organizer Ezekiel E. Feimster, of Sarasota, Fla.

Terry C. Gappa, of Plymouth, Mass., was right in the thick of it. A stunt driver for the Hell Drivers, he has wanted to be behind the wheel for as long as he can remember.

“When I was this tall,” he said, gesturing to the ground, “my parents used to take me out of school and take me to the fair.”

“I would put on a helmet and say I wanted to be a stunt driver. Everyone else wanted to be a fireman or a policeman.”

He started as a show clown for a stunt driving group and worked his way up.

When the Hell Riders do their full-length show they will deliberately crash cars into each other, and Mr. Gappa will be behind the wheel. For Friday’s shorter show, he served as a stuntman and suffered one of the first injuries of his career.

He was attempting a stunt called the “slide for life,” in which he slides from atop a speeding car to safety. Something went wrong and he took a tumble, flipping in the dirt and straining his wrist and shoulder.

Paramedics gave him ice for the injury, and despite his pain he was ready for his next stunt, standing on the roof of a speeding car and clutching a bar for balance. When the Hell Drivers head to Pennsylvania this weekend for their next show, he will do it all again.

“I’ve never been injured in a crash. This was my first time getting hurt in a stunt,” he said.

Tonny Petersen used a ramp to tilt a pickup truck on two wheels, and he kept it balanced as he drove all the way around the track. Other drivers smashed through burning barricades and stood atop moving four-wheelers to wow the crowd.

Despite the thrilling appearance of the stunts and the occasional danger to the performers, after awhile even high-stakes driving can become part of the routine, according to John N. Wisner of the Hell Drivers.

He’s been driving more than 40 years, travelling from city to city to perform his stunts again and again every night.

“At this point it’s just kind of regular,” he said. “No big deal.”




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