‘Hoping for some real damage’ at minivan demolition

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Josh Price, one of the demolition derby organizers, monitors the action Friday night as some of the minivans run out of steam at the Oxford County Fair in Oxford.

OXFORD — Take that, Plymouth Voyager!

Jerry Bissette forked over $200 for a beat-up minivan Friday night just so he could wreck the thing.

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“My wife’s going to kill me,” the Oxford man said.

It wasn’t his wife who did the damage, though. Moments after driving the Voyager onto the muddy track at the Oxford Fairgrounds, the front end of Bissette’s new ride was smashed in nearly up to the windshield. The front bumper was hanging perilously and the Plymouth seemed to be smoking from every opening.

It kept running, though, and that’s all that mattered. The Oxford Fair Minivan Demolition isn’t about who has the best-looking wheels, after all. It’s about who can withstand the most abuse and keep going.

Turnout for the Friday night event was heavy, to the point where hundreds had to stand to watch the action.

“We put in 10 new bleachers the year before last,” demolition official Tonya Hutchins said, “and they filled right up.”

Roughly 16 drivers in 16 ratty-looking minivans competed for the $600 prize. Within a few minutes, most had been battered into submission. The sound of crunching metal filled the night, along with the thick scent of diesel and exhaust fumes.

The trick to demolition minivan driving?

“You’ve got to have good tires,” said Rob Lowe of Auburn. “If you have good tires, you’ll do all right.”

Lowe would know. He won the big minivan demolition last year and came in third in a race Thursday.

Sadly, Lowe was knocked out of Friday night’s race early, his minivan a crumpled mess after taking a hard hit from a backward wheeling van.

For fans who came out to watch the demolition, watching a track full of minivans suffer varying levels of annihilation is what it was all about.

“I’m hoping they’ll do some real damage out there,” said Rodney Welch of Mechanic Falls. “Isn’t that why we come to these things?”

Welch, there with his wife, Annette, was only being honest. He was also looking for a weird sense of revenge. Welch is a man who once drove one of these oversized wagons every day and it didn’t always go well.

“We got hit in our minivan twice,” he said. “A guy in Windham nailed us probably going 40 mph.”

Welch and his wife no longer drive a minivan, but Rodney said he wouldn’t mind trying to destroy one in an event such as this.

“I’ll bet in reverse, it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Jeff Pilling of Rumford, who drove a Chrysler Town & Country, went home with the prize money.

On Saturday, the prize will more than double with $1,500 going to the last ride standing.

Josh Price, one of the demolition derby organizers, monitors the action Friday night as some of the vehicles run out of steam at the Oxford County Fair in Oxford.

After buying a minivan on a last-minute whim, Jerry Bissette of Oxford uses a lighter to illuminate the dashboard in hopes of getting the radio to work before Friday’s demolition derby at the Oxford County Fair in Oxford.

An aerial view of the The Big “O” at the Oxford Fairgrounds Friday night.

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