What's made of wood, purrs like a kitten when it's in motion, weighs less than 250 pounds and is driven only by kids!  The Soap Box Derby Race at Boissevain's 2023 Streetfest!

Boissevain Lions Club member, Gord Turner, has been working feverishly providing car kits to kids for them to put construct, paint and perfect for race day, September 16th, and he's even built a half-dozen or so for those who want to race but don't have a soap box car to hop into! 

And yes, registration is pretty much full at the time of the writing of this article - so you better act fast if you want to get in on the competition.  

The organizing committee for the Boissevain Streetfest is thrilled with the number of soap box cars that have been registered for their September 16th race - over 60 cars and drivers! 

Municipality of Boissevain-Morton Executive Assistant, Melissa Perkins, says she is amazed at how the local Lions Club has rallied around their annual September event ... and, she adds, there are so many facets to this year's Streetfest that will be free for everyone, with the help of many volunteers, and great ideas - including the Soap Box Derby!

"Here we are, we have the Lions Club leading by example," shares Perkins. "They came to the Streetfest organizing committee and said, 'Hey! We've got an idea - and we're willing to run with it! What do you think?!'"

"It was a fantastic idea and we're so grateful to them for doing this, because there is no way we would have the capacity with this event to put on something like a Soap Box Derby without them," she adds, "and again, it's just a testament to that true sense of community and giving back and making this wonderful for all of us!  I'm so looking forward to that Soap Box Derby race!"

Here's some history on the beginnings of this iconic event!

According to my research, the name 'soap box derby' was coined by journalist, Myron Scott, after he wrote about a race that featured home-built cars for children made from the wooden slats from the crates which soap was packed into.  (Yes, back in the 1930's soap was packed in wooden crates!). The wood boards were used as the body of the mini-cars, and then covered with cloth and then painted.

It seems the kids' car racing program started in Dayton, Ohio, in 1934 by a group of friends who constructed the racing cars from scraps of lumber from the wooden crates. In 1935, the race moved to Akron, Ohio. It became a big thing during the 1950’s and '60’s in Akron, Ohio - drawing in up to 70,000 spectators!

The first BIG Soap Box Derby was held at Scotts Bluff National Monument in 1939.

Some rules and specifications for the cars at the time derby races were held at Scotts Bluff include:

  • The driver had to build his own car but could obtain the advice of adults in its construction.
  • Cars competing in this, and related events were unpowered, relying completely upon gravity to move.
  • The car was built with a two-inch pine plank for the base, ply-wood sides and sheet aluminum on the top.
  • The cars had to be 3 inches above the ground, with the driver in the car, and have a maximum length of 80 inches.
  • The combined weight of the car and driver could not exceed 250 pounds.
  • The limit that could be spent in building the car was $10.00.

This was no small race for the boys who qualified to compete (yes, unfortunately at that time this was a boys' only race).  Boys between the ages of 11 and 15 vied for the trophy and an expense-paid trip to Akron, Ohio, where he would then represent Scottsbluff in the Soap Box Derby Grand Championship Finals in Akron.

Now, hold on to your steering wheel!  This Grand Championship Finals gave the young lad a chance to compete for a 4-year scholarship at the university of his choice!  Wow! That was a huge deal back in the 1930's to 1960's, believe me!

So, if you're able to attend this year's Streetfest derby race, give these participants a cheer 'cuz they're carrying on a tradition that's neary 90 years!

"I think a Soap Box race is one of those classic kid-memories that you'll forever remember when you're a grown-up later on," adds Melissa Perkins, "and I'm just thrilled that we're going to be able to have that here at Boissevain's Streetfest this year!"

Please listen to more with Melissa Perkins below!

For more information on the Boissevain Streetfest, Saturday, September 16th, visit the Boissevain-Morton municipality website, or click HERE!

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