Registration of soap box derby racers took place this past Sunday at the Mission Leisure Centre. The Scheltgen family gets its first test runs at the Leisure Centre. The annual race will be Aug. 24 on Stave Lake Street.

Mission soapbox derby set for Aug. 24

The soap box cars, usually made of wood, are simple, gravity-fed vehicles in which kids aged 8-14 sit or lie feet-first.

  • Aug. 16, 2013 6:00 a.m.

by Alina Konevski

Mission Record

There are few opportunities in the modern world for kids to careen down roads in homemade carts at 45 km/h.

“It basically started out as kids building a car with four wheels and driving down a hill as fast as possible,” said Remco Bergman, president of the Mission & District Soapbox Derby Association.

The soap box cars, usually made of wood, are simple, gravity-fed vehicles in which kids aged 8-14 sit or lie feet-first. The fastest to the finish line at the end of the 600-metre route on Stave Lake Street on Aug. 24 wins.

The Mission Soapbox Derby stretches back to 1947, and kept strong through several decades. It even attracted 20,000 people in 1956, overshadowing the Strawberry Festival. But interest gradually declined until the derby dissolved in 1974. Bergman attributes this to the practical difficulty of building and storing soap box cars. Then in 1999, community groups decided to reinstate the sport on its home turf after a quarter century absence.

Ever since, the local derby has been growing stronger. A big reason is the association’s expanding collection of cars that riders can use on race day. This means that kids no longer have to spend countless hours, under the supervision of an understanding parent, to build wooden boxes with wheels. It also means that parents don’t have to figure out where to store the two-metre by one-metre creations.

The Mission & District Soapbox Derby Association now has a stable of 15 cars. About 70 per cent of participants make free use of them. They take turns, with each participant receiving several rides.

Kids must wear helmets, and goggles and pads are recommended. Participants are strapped in the car with a seatbelt. Their hands are also tied to the steering wheel. This, Bergman has found, is much safer because it keeps kids in the car during a potential crash, preventing them from instinctively bracing themselves outside the vehicle and causing injuries.

The 600-metre stretch of Stave Lake Street is lined with 1,400 hay bales.

All cars must pass inspection before being allowed on the track. Those participants who want to ride in a borrowed car are properly fitted to one according to size. And all cars are constantly re-checked in between the races.

“We take care of the kids from start to finish,” said Bergman.

He wants parents to drop off their kids, and relax in the viewing area while the organizers and volunteers handle everything. Even when the kids drive down the hill, they need only to walk up for the second ride. Their cars will be carried up on flatbed trucks.

True to tradition, however, one-third of kids and their families still build their own soap box cars. Some are built for high performance, with bodies made out of carbon fibre or kevlar.

All participants walk away rewarded at the event that’s “absolutely phenomenal for the kids,” said Bergman. It’s medals and T-shirts all around. There are trophies for those who place.

The big prize, however, is a $500 grant towards education for the overall fastest rider. And because so many participants are from out of town, there’s another $500 for the fastest rider from Mission. The participant elected most sportsman-like will receive a new bicycle.

Outside of the races, there will be a pudding-eating contest for the little kids, and a hot dog-eating contest for the older ones.

And for the first time ever, the fun isn’t reserved for kids. Those over 14, including full-fledged adults, are welcome to hop into a modified, much larger soap box car to do their own race. The opportunity is a direct reply to parents who have approached organizers saying that if they could fit in the car, they’d do it in heartbeat.

Although the registration cut-off has passed, Bergman hates turning people away. Those wishing to enrol their kids, or themselves in the event, and reserve a car spot, should contact the association at webinfo@missionsoapbox.com. Participation is $25 per child, and $100 per adult. Cost includes lunch. Watching is free.

On Aug. 24, participants should arrive at 7 a.m. In case of rain, the event will be moved to Sep. 14.

Just Posted

No charges against cop accused of stuffing money into sock during search

BC Prosecution Service says not enough evidence against Abbotsford officer

$7.4 million in funding for seniors’ housing in Mission

Province announced today that it will provide funding for 74 new housing units for local seniors

Gas prices in Metro Vancouver to drop six cents

But a ‘volatile’ market could lead to increases in the coming weeks

Abbotsford murder victim identified as Jagvir Malhi

Police say killing linked to Lower Mainland gang conflict

UPDATE: Man, 19, dies in shooting on Ross Road in Abbotsford

Victim was airlifted to hospital Monday afternoon, but died shortly afterwards

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Tubing, skating, light display part of new winter festival in Vancouver

Set to open Nov. 23, the six-week festival will take over Vancouver’s Concord Pacific Centre

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Regulatory confusion over ‘toxic’ stink near Abbotsford school

Officials sniffing out which regulators responsible for enforcing compliance at neighbouring property

Most Read