Soap box derby returns to Meriden after 10-year hiatus

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MERIDEN —  The Meriden Soap Box Derby returns this weekend after a ten-year hiatus. 

Meriden Children First Initiative has taken the reins to bring the gravity-powered racing event to Hubbard Park at 9 a.m. Saturday.  

“The Soap Box Derby hasn’t been done since 2012,” said Ron Harris, an organizer and member Children First Initiative’s board of directors. “I always wanted to participate in the soap box derby since I was a kid watching the Little Rascals. It’s just a great way to give back and get my son involved in the community.”

About 20 youngsters, aged 7 to 17, will race cars they painted and customized. The stock car division is for ages 7 to 13, and the super stock car division is for the older teens. There will be trophies for winners in both divisions and gift card prizes.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department helped set up the course on a hill at the park underpass. Contributors include Kevin Curry, who ran the race for many years, ION Bank, Iliano’s Restaurant – Pizzeria, K LaMays Steamed Cheeseburgers and several local barbershops. Each car costs about $1,000 to build. The city’s Department of Health and Human Services donated helmets for the riders.  

“We got a lot of support.” Harris said. “We had the kids come down last weekend to paint their cars and make sure the cars were safe. I’ve been delivering the cars to parents, and there were a lot of turning heads.“

The event will also feature a visit with Mike Carson, of the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio. Harris and other organizers hope to make the city race an annual event and eventually send winners to compete in national and global championship races. 

The Soap Box Derby is a youth soapbox car racing program run in the United States since 1933. World Championship finals are held each July in Akron, Ohio. The championship race was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but returned last year. During its long history, the derby was also cancelled from 1942 to 1945 because of World War II.

Using standardized wheels with precision ball bearings, modern gravity-powered racers start at a ramp on top of a hill, attaining speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.  Both girls and boys are invited to participate.

The Meriden Soap Box Derby was run for many years by the Lion’s Club and the Rotary Club, Curry said. Later, it was taken over by Beat the Street.

Harris’s son True, 9, and daughter Envy, 12, are competing in the inaugural race.  True Harris added metal plates and Envy Harris painted her car yellow and named it “Queen Bee.” 

“I’d like to see this build into momentum,” Harris said. “Hopefully we’ll be sending kids to Ohio soon.” 

The event will also feature food trucks and vendors.     

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz


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