SMITHBURG -- If it weren't for all the flying dirt, it could have been an ice skating preliminary.
ATV after ATV ran figure-eight-like patterns on the fresh dirt track, fast and loud if not graceful.
Chad Ford, who organized the motor rodeo for the Doddridge County Fair, said such programming is becoming quite an attraction.
"There are more turning out every year," Ford said of the event that drew two dirt bikes in addition to nearly 20 ATV riders from several age classes.
One ATV enthusiast who was drawn to the Doddridge event for the first time this year was 13-year-old Matt Merrill of Belpre, Ohio.
"I raced last Saturday and last Tuesday," said Merrill after completing a noticeably smoother run than other racers.
He actually races most weeks, with his biggest win being a motocross event in Reno, Ohio.
Unlike many competitors, Merrill said he has the advantage of practicing on a flat, dirt course with man-made obstacles similar to the one created at Doddridge County Park in Smithburg.
"You get in the woods and ride around trees," said adult competitor Kenny Scheuvront of how he prepares for competition in lieu of track runs.
Others practice in their yards, including 5-year-old ATV'er Walker Trent of West Union.
"I popped a wheelie about that far off the ground," said Trent, gesturing from atop his miniature machine.
A new rider, Trent was joined by his mother, Christina, and father, Bill, for entry in the peewee division. Unlike many states, West Virginia has no minimum age for ATV use.
Bill, a former first-place rider from the fair, was a demonstration rider this year, running through each course before competition. Courses varied from simple zig zags to complicated arcs and loops.
A list of winners of this year's motor rodeo was not available at deadline on Wednesday.
The fair continues tonight from 6-11, with rides from 6-11, exhibit viewing from 6-9, a decorated diaper contest and derby at 6, a gospel sing from 6-8:30, a marble shooting exhibition at 6:30, a livestock sale at 7, a marble tournament at 7, a demolition derby (four-cylinder) at 8, a gospel sing, a 4th Avenue concert at 9 and 10:15, and fireworks at 9:15.
Activities on Friday, the last of the fair, run from 4-11 p.m. and include exhibit viewing from 4-10, rides from 5-11, a demolition derby (full size) at 6:30, and Brad Paisley concerts at 7 and 9 p.m.
Admission is $5 per person.
Regional Editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1403.