Carnival sounds that echoed through the Sonoma County Fairgrounds were rivaled by the roaring engines and throngs of fans cheering on monster trucks that converged on Santa Rosa Friday night.
The first of the Sonoma County Fair’s two weekend monster truck competitions featured six monster trucks and a handful of ATV motorcycles at the fairgrounds’ Chris Beck Arena.
And for many in the audience, the WGAS Motorsports event was an opportunity to see the large, 10,000-plus pound vehicles that they’ve only seen on television.
Seeing them up close, they could only remain astonished by their size and the sounds of rumbling engines.
“I would break a leg just climbing into one of those. These are bigger than I imagined,” said Santa Rosa resident Mack Steiner, 37, as he took pictures next to the trucks while they were on display prior to the competition. “Not sure I’d be able to handle one on the freeway.”
Each wheel is about 66 inches tall, said Santa Ana resident Rudy Martin Del Campo, 23, who is in his first month of competing after being a mechanic for four years.
Driving a truck called “Survivor,” he said each truck has 35-gallon tanks of methanol and it only takes 30 seconds to burn five gallons.
Despite how it may seem, driving monster trucks and launching them into the air isn’t always a rough experience.
“They’re very graceful for how big they are,” Martin Del Campo said.
Friday’s showcase kicked off with each driver entering the course and greeting the crowd before taking turns performing stunts — a process that lasted up to 90 seconds at a time.
The truck showcase was the first of several planned to run late into the evening.
Among the competitors was Shane Plato, a 13-year-old Cloverdale resident and the world’s youngest professional monster truck driver.
The event announcer emphasized Shane’s connection to the area as he took the course in his truck, Skull Krusher, stopping briefly to face the stands as the hometown crowd cheered him on.
Following the opening event, Shane said the experience was “pretty fun” and that, while driving, he was focused on enjoying the moment while also putting on a show for the Sonoma County crowd.
Shane may have several years of experience, but “I still get that rush” from driving monster trucks, he said.
He was greeted by Martin Del Campo following the event and the two conversed as if they were lifelong friends. That’s not unusual in the monster truck community, Martin Del Campo said, and drivers and crew members often look out for one another.
And after watching Friday’s performance, Petaluma resident Sammy Nicholas, 11, said he wants to be a part of the monster truck community.
“It was awesome. Loud and fast,” he said. “So, so cool.”
You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at email@example.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi