All-American Soap Box Derby
I had the distinct pleasure of attending the 72nd Annual All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron on Saturday, July 25, 2009. I told a friend I had seen soap box races along the shoreway in Cleveland, but never been to “the” derby in Akron. His response was, “Akron is to soap box racing as Indianapolis is to car racing.”
Turns out, even on a misty gray day, folks turn out in a big way for this gravity race. There were some 600 entrants from around the US (and as far as Japan) ages eight to 17 participating. These kids had won qualifying races or earned points racing in “rally races” throughout the country and their friends and families were on the sidelines (under tents, in pop-up chairs, lining the bleacher seats or patiently waiting at the starting line) ready to cheer them on.
The Akron three-lane track is permanent. The culminating race is held there every July. Racers, tucked down in their cars with just a sliver view of the track ahead, go down the hill in heats. Their finishes are timed, photographed and filmed to ensure accuracy. How do they get back up to the top? Their cars are loaded on trailers and vans and driven back to the starting line.
One cool aspect of the race was the incorporation of special needs kids. Those kids participate in a “National Super Kids Classic” that is woven into the day. They ride in special cars (two to a car, so someone can ride alongside them) and race in pairs.
The Soap Box Derby is billed as “the greatest amateur racing event in the world” and I can see that. It’s certainly something original, open to all, accessible and just plain fun.
The International Soap Box Derby is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. For more information on building a racer, participating in a race, sponsorship or rules, visit www.aasbd.com. To see more of my photos from the day, click here.–Submitted by SF
EDITOR’S NOTE: There is a permanent track near the Detroit-Shoreway by West 49th Street in Cleveland. For more information on this track (pictured here) or Cleveland area rallies, visit www.clevelandsoapboxderby.com.