By ALVIN REINER
---- — WESTPORT — The car that folks at Mountain Lake Services labored over was headed for destruction.
But they didn’t care.
To see their vehicle in the Demolition Derby at the Essex County Fair, with Medicaid Service Coordinator Terry Conley at the wheel, was worth the work.
Murdock Construction bought the beat-up station wagon for Mountain Lakes, then Direct Support Professional Deb Mandy and her husband, Vic, spent countless hours going over it from top to bottom, preparing it for the event.
Mountain Lake service recipients pitched in to help move the gas tank, take out the seats and complete other tasks that would qualify it for the competition, Community and Staff Relations Assistant Manager Erin Quackenbush said.
They painted the car in bright primary colors — yellow, green, blue, red. And they added personal touches — flames over the wheel wells and along the tailgate, names of those who took part, Mike, Travis, David, Brad ...
“I didn’t touch the car,” Conley said of the preparations.
The Mountain Lake employee was an athletic standout in soccer and basketball for Westport Central School, as well as a top competitor in track and field, but this was her first attempt in a Demolition Derby.
The first heat saw Conley and her vehicle briefly resting on the top of Karlee McGee’s entry after being sandwiched by McGee and another competitor.
Both women were able to resume their bashing activities for a few more minutes.
“I thought I would be scared, but I wasn’t,” Conley said after her first heat.
Her hands were trembling some, though, she admitted.
After the pit crew, including Jeremy Goodreau and A.J. Duval, worked over the vehicle, replacing three tires, pulling out fenders and bumpers and checking out the transmission and engine, Conley was ready for a consolation heat.
“They were so excited, the two guys in the pit,” Quackenbush said of Goodreau and Duval.
Mountain Lake Services, located in Port Henry, assists and provides employment, services and activities for people with special needs at its group homes, sheltered workshops and other programs.
Demolition Derby, Quackenbush said, was a first for the organization.
SOLD FOR SCRAP
After a series of hard hits in the consolation heat, Conley and her car were done for the day.
But the entry won first place in the Best of Show division of the derby, which was sponsored at the fair by Egglefield Brothers Ford.
The car is just a cube of metal now, but the money from selling it for scrap, along with some funds that came with the Best of Show prize, will go toward buying a new vehicle for next year.
“They’re looking to going in again,” Quackenbush said, laughing.
— News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.