It’s almost time to head for the hill, and race your way down.
The annual Mission Soapbox Derby is set for Saturday, June 24, and organizers are keeping busy getting last minute details taken care of.
Keith Hine, president of the Mission Soapbox Derby Society says he expects about 42 racers to compete this year.
“That’s really the perfect amount, otherwise if there’s too many racers, the kids only get two runs each.”
2017 marks the 19th year for the popular race, since it restarted in 1999. The original soapbox derby ran from 1946 to 1973.
This year’s event begins at about 7 a.m. as volunteers help set up the course, before the races begin.
As in years past, Hine said the races are broken down into three groups – drivers age 8-9, 10-11 and 12-14 years old.
“We give out three first place prizes, $500 bursaries, one for each class.
There are also trophies and medals for other racers. Competitors also get a racer’s shirt.
“It’s a totally awesome time. It’s going to be a great day of racing,” said Hine.
Organizers and racers will converge in the area of Heritage Park Middle School (33700 Prentis Ave.) in preparation for racing.
A section of Stave Lake Street will be closed to traffic during the race.
Along with the races is a pudding eating and hot dog eating contest for people to enjoy.
Organizers are still looking for more volunteers to help out with setting up the race site. Volunteers are needed on both Friday and Saturday.
According to the Mission Museum website, in 1946, the inaugural Strawberry Festival was held in Mission on Main Street from Grand Street to Horne Street. As part of the festivities, a soapbox derby was held for boys aged 11 to 16.
The first year of the derby was a huge success.
In 1947, Mission received the rights to an American Soapbox Association franchise, meaning that the winner in Mission would go on to compete in the All-American Soap Box Derby Championship finals in Akron, Ohio. By 1950 the Derby was a provincial-wide contest.
The derby’s success surpassed everyone’s expectations and in 1956 the Strawberry Festival was dropped to handle the derby exclusively, which subsequently attracted 20,000 visitors to Mission that year.
In 1958 the Derby had over 200 contestants representing over 40 different communities. The cost of staging the event had also increased with the rise in notoriety. Although the soapbox derby had a multitude of sponsors, it did not provide sufficient monetary contributions to offset the costs.
Due to declining local interest, the derby was cancelled in 1974.
In 1999, sponsored by the Mission & District Lions Club, the derby was started again. It was taken over in 2002 by the Mission & District Soap Box Derby Association and has taken place annually ever since.