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Soapbox Derby gets the green light Sunday

Annual event for fathers, kids and race fans alike

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jun 14, 2014 06:00 am

PILOT PLUMES – Zachary Epp, 7, is all decked out as he prepares to race his go-cart at the start gate, last year at the Annual Rock n' August Father's Day Soapbox Derby.
PILOT PLUMES – Zachary Epp, 7, is all decked out as he prepares to race his go-cart at the start gate, last year at the Annual Rock n' August Father's Day Soapbox Derby.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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It’s Father’s Day tomorrow and everybody knows what that means: it’s Soap Box Derby time.

Race director Cheryl MacKenzie said that the fourth annual event is chock full of action for everyone involved including the spectators and the 70 or so racers. For her, so much of that action has been behind the scenes as she has been scrambling to make sure everyone who wants to has a spot on the track on race day.

“It’s been a crazy week but really good! Everybody decides to register at the last minute!” she exclaimed with a hearty laugh.

She said that 35 racers had just submitted their forms by Tuesday, less than half of the full slate that is usually set to go on race day. Now, there are 72 names and 72 karts on the list – almost matching last year’s 74 – and they’re all set and ready to go, go, go.

“They’re almost all return racers. They’re all just, ‘Well, I’ve got my car. We’re good. Oh yeah, I guess I have to tell them I’m coming.’ We did a lot of social media pushes and emails out to them to get them going. I’m happy with the outcome. I’d say 80 per cent of our racers are returns,” the jovial organizer said, still laughing. “I hear it from all the parents. I’ve got parents calling me at the last minute, going, ‘Please tell me I can register. My son’ll kill me!’”

The great derby action starts tomorrow at noon on the asphalt hill of St. Vital Avenue. Racers will compete in heats of three with their standard kit karts all assembled, tested and approved for thunderous gravity-powered racing.

The event is for children aged six to 12 with races divided up into three separate age categories: 6 to 7, 8 to 9, and 10 to 12.

All drivers get to have three races down the 250-metre section of the steep avenue between Madonna Drive and Liberton Drive. MacKenzie wrote on the Spirit of St. Albert’s Facebook page that racers could get up to speeds of 40 kph.

They will receive 10 points for each first place finish, five points for each second and one point for each third. The points are then tallied after the three races and the top three in each age category win trophies. Tiebreaker races are held if necessary to determine the winners.

“They are race drivers on that day. They are treated as a race driver from the minute they get on site … till the minute they’re done with the awards, it’s their show and we’re spectators in their show. I think they like that. It’s a big day for them. It’s their Formula One!”

She added that it has always been held on the third Sunday in June to coincide with another special day on the calendar: Father’s Day. The derby is an old-fashioned way of getting pop and the kids to spend time together with nary a battery in use, except for possibly all of the camera phones snapping pics for the photo albums.

“This is an opportunity for the dads to interact with their sons and daughters without a computer, without video games, something outdoors, rain or shine the event goes,” she said, adding that so much of the energy behind the race comes from the dads themselves, some of whom start to get excited about it around Christmas.

“You definitely see that. The fathers have such a fun time on the day of the race. I have a lot of people begging me to do an open class for adults but I don’t think our ramps could handle it!”

The event is presented by Rock’n August and the Spirit of St. Albert Committee. It was first held in the city back in 1961 for the city’s centennial celebrations. It was revived for the city’s yearlong 150th anniversary party in 2011 and has stuck it out as a legacy event ever since.

It will all start with a special kick off demonstration. Local karting enthusiast Lewis Lefebvre’s snazzy American Standard soapbox racer will be driven down the hill by Ethan Andrews.

It is also a fundraising event with all proceeds going to the Alberta Diabetes Foundation.

Luckily, the Environment Canada forecast calls for a 30 per cent chance of showers with mixed sun and clouds and a high of 19 degrees for Sunday. Fingers crossed, the weather on Sunday should be perfect for some good old-fashioned kart racing.

Call MacKenzie at 780-907-1034, email or visit for more information.


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