All-American Soap Box Derby celebrating 75th anniversary
|All-American Soap Box Derby champions from around the world took part in welcoming ceremonies July 16 at Lock 3 Park. Shown is Annie Taylor, of Neligh, Neb., an Ultimate Speed champion, throwing goodies to the crowd. Each derby racer threw goodies after being introduced.
|Shown above is Annette Moraleja, of Chillicothe, with her medical alert dog named Lexie. They were on hand to represent Region 6 champs from Lancaster
|Photos: Ken Crisafi|
|Shown above with her face painted for the event is Kaelie Eberhart, of Indiana.|
This year, 425 boys and girls between 7 and 17 — representing 40 states, as well as Canada, Germany, Japan and New Zealand — are in Akron with their families for a week of activities leading up to Derby Day tomorrow, July 21.
The racers earned a spot in Saturday’s event by winning the local Soap Box Derby race in their home communities or by accumulating points in rally competitions throughout the United States.
Racers in the South Side News Leader’s coverage area include: Haley Aull, of Green, Super Stock; and Katie Dudones, of Springfield, Super Stock.
Race week festivities began July 16 with a parade of participating champions in Downtown Akron.
Opening ceremonies are set to take place at Derby Downs July 21 starting at 8 a.m. Racing will begin at 8:30 a.m., and the champions will be determined by 5 p.m.
The National Super Kids Classic, a race for special needs children, will take place at Derby Downs today, July 20, starting at 10 a.m.
According to derby officials, boys and girls compete in three divisions: the novice Stock Car division, which features the smallest, simplest ready-to-assemble kits; the Super Stock division, with similar, but larger cars; and the Masters division, featuring the traditional, more sophisticated cars.
The racers are competing for a share of $45,000 in scholarship awards, according to derby officials. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is the scholarship sponsor for the derby this year.
A 75-year tradition
The All-American Soap Box Derby was run for the first time in 1934, but the inaugural event did not take place in Akron. The first running was in Dayton, and the event moved to Akron in 1935, according to derby officials. Derby Downs, located in the southeast section of Akron, was built in 1936. Since its first year, the derby has been an annual event — stopped only for a four-year hiatus during World War II, from 1942 through 1945, according to derby officials.
“The program has been teaching young people the skills of workmanship, perseverance to stick with a project and good family values for 75 years,” said Bob Troyer, a public relations counselor and volunteer for the derby. “I think that puts it in a unique category.”
Troyer said the derby values tradition, but also makes improvements as needed. One addition to this year’s event is a permanent arch structure over the starting gate at Derby Downs. The arch, built by Willoughby’s Marous Brothers Construction, was designed for protection from the sun and other weather elements.
“In years past, we’ve put tents up there because it gets very hot in the sun. Well, this is like a permanent canopy over the starting line,” Troyer said. “This will be much more efficient. We won’t have to put up the tents, and it’s obviously much nicer looking than some tents.”
According to Troyer, the starting line arch was dedicated July 14.
In addition, a popular event introduced during last year’s race week is returning this year, Troyer said.
“One of the things we’re doing that we started last year, and it was very successful, is on Friday night [July 20], we’re opening up the track to anybody who wants to go down the hill,” he said. “You can come out here, and for $25, which goes to the derby organization, you can take a ride down the hill in a car that we’ll provide to you. That will be between 5:30 and 9 p.m. We have adult-sized cars in addition to those for kids.”
Troyer said the activity is first-come, first-served.
“We had to cut it off last year because it got dark. There were so many people who wanted to do it,” he said. “Last year, we made about $3,000 on that, and it helps to pay for some of the race-week expenses.”
Also helping to pay for the expenses, Troyer said, is FirstEnergy, which is the All-American Soap Box Derby’s new title sponsor starting this year.
“We haven’t had a sponsor in five years,” Troyer said. “It’s great to have them on board. And it gives us some stability, because they signed a three-year agreement in March.”
Tickets for the derby can be purchased at the door on race day. Advanced tickets can be purchased at the derby office, located at 189 Derby Downs Drive, near the Rubber Bowl and across from Akron Fulton International Airport.
“We certainly hope that people come out,” Troyer said. “It’s only $5 to take part in it on race day. It’s good entertainment.”
For additional information about the All-American Soap Box Derby, go to www.aasbd.org. On July 21, that website will feature a live webcast of race-day action.
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