Soap Box Derby Returns to Mt. Pleasant – Press Release 4/19/2004

DATE 04/19/2004 3:12 PM

This is part of an occasional series by the Sanpete Country Travel and Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance on the people and places along U.S. Highway 89.

Soap Box Derby Returns to Mt. Pleasant

Mt. Pleasant’s Main Street will take on the look of yesteryear come May, when the city hosts the Third Annual “Soap Box Derby” races. The event was designed to bring the once-popular races back to the streets of Mt. Pleasant. It has grown in popularity in the last couple of years, with some 20 cars expected to compete in this year’s races, which will be held May 22. They are sponsored by the Sanpete County Travel and Heritage Council and local resident John McClelland.

“Anything goes,” says McClelland, who also oversaw last year’s festivities. “And we get anything and everything too, from a two-by-10-foot board with wheel barrel wheels, to streamlined, competitive cars. We leave it open so that the kid who just has a set of lawnmower wheels can come and have fun too. There is something for everyone.”

The races get underway following an Ugly Truck Parade at noon down Main Street that will include soap box derby cars. Both the parade and races are part of the city’s annual Rhubarb Festival.

A 16-foot ramp will be built at one end of the street for the Soap Box derby, with a finish line at the opposite end. A police radar will display times and speeds. McClelland plans to run qualifying heats to determine which cars will compete against each other. Winners of each heat will move to the next round, with the final winner receiving a grand prize. “We want to have the “fast cars” racing the fast cars so that it is fair and enjoyable,” he says.

But, he adds, the fastest, slickest-looking cars don’t always win. “Last year, the winner brought a car that his friend had raced in 1964. He ended up beating all of the new, streamlined cars.”

Soap Box Derby races used to be a popular event in Sanpete County, with a lot of local residents taking part as children. The races first became popular in the 1930s.

It is believed they officially started when a Dayton, Ohio, Daily News Photographer encountered three boys racing homemade, engine-less cars down an inclined brick street. He reportedly came up with the idea to hold a coasting race and award a prize to the winner. The first official race was held in 1933, with more than 300 kids showing up with homemade cars built of orange crates, sheet tin, wagon and baby-buggy wheels and almost everything of “junk value.”

As to be expected, Soap Box derby races have grown in popularity and sophistication over the years, with contests now full of regulations and restrictions. But Sanpete County’s races remain true to the original “anything goes” soap box derby philosophy. Cars can be made of any material, including plastic, wood, metal. They should be about six to seven feet long and about three feet wide. Drivers should range in age from about eight to 16 years.

For additional information, contact McClelland at (435) 462-3808.

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For more information Contact:

Monte Bona
Sanpete County Travel and Heritage Council
(435) 462-2502

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