‘Country Crush’ celebrates farm life

Jessica Roblin

Every fall, huge green and brown harvesters can be seen rolling noisily through country wheat and cornfields.

The Columbiana County Fair lets these beasts butt heads every year for fighting purposes only. Instead of cutting crops, men and farmers from 20 to 50-years-old rev their old engines in a demolition derby held since 1992.

The combine event, held about an hour southeast of Kent, attracts a huge crowd every year. One Kent State sociology professor, Molly Merryman, was drawn to the display while she was working toward her doctorate degree.

“I knew combines were the size of small apartments, so the thought of them crashing into each other really intrigued me,” Merryman said.

After dabbling in filmmaking, Merryman produced “Country Crush” as her fourth documentary. The film premiered Tuesday night on PBS Western Reserve and will air again Saturday at 8 p.m. on its Fusion channel. PBS Communications

Coordinator Diane Steinert said the station often works with independent producers like Merryman to help support newcomers in the business.

The documentary features the rainy, mud-caked demolition derby in 2007 set to bluesy country rock music by a Dayton band, Kentucky Overflow. Merryman focused on key competitors, one of them being Mike Cianni, who refers to himself as the grandfather of demolition derby. As a farmer and derby member in the first Columbiana demolition derby in 1992, he has since retired from participating.

“There are a lot of unsung heroes in these local communities that really keep their culture alive and do things to help their friends and neighbors,” Merryman said.

The combine demolition derby allows residents to celebrate farm life, despite its drop in recent years. Merryman saw the importance in small family farms and the fact that they are dwindling quickly. With the rise of commercialized farming, the older, 40-year-old combines in the competition no longer have a use on the farm.

“It’s a subculture that we are losing and one a lot of people don’t appreciate as well as we should,” Merryman said.

Contact Jessica Roblin at [email protected].