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The Soap Box Derby: Low-tech fun
And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days.
-James Russell Lowell
REFRESHINGLY low-tech. That's
"I believe this was the best race we ever had," said race director Alvin Staples. The weather was perfect and the stats say it all: 120 drivers, a first-time event (Super Kids) for handicapped racers, and a win in the Super Stock division by a razor's edge 0.003 second.
Bobby Ulrich III beat his friend Michael Lohr's time by that thin margin to win the right to go to Akron, Ohio, in July to compete in the national event, the All American Soap Box Derby. He'll be joined by three others from Fredericksburg: Jacob Polcha, 10 (Stafford County, Stock division), Kirsten Haynes, 16 (Spotsylvania County, Masters), and Tyler Fry, 13 (Stafford, Super Kids).
But the kids who raced, all of them, didn't get there on their own. They had monetary and logistical support--from business sponsors, friends, family members, and the broader community. Derbies aren't won by an individual in a darkened family room. They're won in broad daylight, on a public street, after months of preparation, in front of cheering supporters who form the driver's "team" and other onlookers. And then there are the volunteers: Those who organize and run the event, who inspect and impound the cars, haul straw bales to line the route, and record and report the times.
That's part of what makes the soap box derby fun: It's a community effort that brings together county and city, young and old, volunteers and onlookers. Real kids, fresh air, a couple of sets of wheels, and a hill--simple, old-school fun, increasingly as rare as that perfect "day in June."