The Mission Soapbox Derby may have to hit the brakes due to a lack of board members.
The organization got on its soapbox on Monday (Jan. 9) and posted to Facebook in a call for help to the Mission community.
“The Mission Soapbox Derby Association and the race associated with it are done,” the association said in the Facebook post. “We don’t have the manpower to keep it going. We have two members left from our original five, both who work full time jobs with families.”
The Derby Association says unless more board members join and volunteer their time, the event will have to fold.
“It’s gonna die,” organizer Keith Hine said. “It’s only meeting once a month. Everybody has little committees and they go their own separate way. I can’t do it all myself.”
The derby is seeking people skilled in social media, sales and marketing, and fixing its fleet of vehicles. The association currently has six board members and is hoping to increase to at least 10. Hine says the derby does well for volunteers on the day of the race, with between 30 and 40 required for the event to function.
The Facebook post on Monday yielded a huge response and help for the derby could be on the way.
“We are feeling the love,” the association said in a subsequent Facebook post. “We are so happy to hear that people want to get involved. We will set a meeting in the next few weeks and ask those interested to attend.”
The first soapbox derby in Mission took place in 1946 as part of the Mission Strawberry Festival. By 1950 the derby was a BC-wide contest. To accommodate its rising popularity, Mission built a new track in 1953 at the fairgrounds.
In 1956, the Strawberry Festival was dropped to handle the Derby exclusively, which subsequently attracted 20,000 visitors to Mission that year. However, the increased number of entries and competition to build better cars had also caused a decrease in local entries. Due to declining local interest, the derby was cancelled in 1974.
In 1999 the derby restarted with new sponsorship from the Mission and District Lions Club. The Mission Soap Box Derby Association took over in 2002 and fell short of a 20 year run when it was cancelled in 2019 due to a lack of volunteers and the need for a permanent track. The event has been on pause since 2019 and the search for a permanent home remains
“I had a beautiful idea for Mary Street, but the [City of Mission] just doesn’t want to do it,” Hine said. “It would have been a permanent track with guardrails down the side. You could use it once a year or twice a year, and then we could have two races a year. So I still think it’s a good idea but it costs money to revamp the hill.”