Soap box derby racing in Maine.
Did you get a set of axles and and pretty much on your own created a soap box derby car to compete in a local race? Soap box derby race in Maine. Since 1995, downhill gravity racing in driver built kit cars re-surged around Maine.
This blog post is all about where we are today in Maine soap box derby racing.
The All American Soap Box Derby racing program in Akron Ohio started back in 1934.
Throughout the years since then, Maine communities joined together to field racers to represent Maine in the big national soap box derby race.
In my hometown of Houlton Maine, I run into hand built soap box derby cars stored away over shops and garages. They are hidden “up over head”. Relic, classic soap box derby cars just gathering dust since last used back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
These early soap box derby races had big national corporate sponsors like Chevrolet.
Local Maine Chevy dealers, our larger state newspapers too helped promote the big three lane race held in the Midwest.
My involvement in the Maine soap box derby cars was not because an older brother raced.
But my four children all raced soap box derby. How did it become popular again? In Maine, in 1995, it was a Camden Maine race caught lots of attention and started the grass fire of local interest in local soap box derby racing.
That Camden Maine derby car race funded by a credit card company, MBNA
The credit card giant earmarked the seed money, $20,000, and hired a New Hampshire soap box derby group to set up the 1995 race. By 1996, parents and fans who witnessed the Camden Maine race came back to their home towns to set up their own local derby program. The following year after that MBNA sponsored race, Maine started up five local derby programs that quickly took shape.
The soap box derby “locals” as they are called were in Brewer, Camden, Houlton, South Portland and Rumford.
Each derby “local” raised their own seed money to fund the race each year. Selecting a winning derby car driver(s) to present their local at the big national All American race in Akron Ohio. Besides the local derby races held around Maine each June, spring and fall “rally races” took place.
These rally races help derby drivers sharpen their skills. To put more racing experience under the belt of whoever Maine sent to Akron Ohio be the best the state could send.
Rally race points were earned for each of their rallies. Some parents traveled to the sunny south, anywhere there was a rally race to gain all important points to earn a trip to Akron Ohio for the big national derby race.
Besides the stock, super stock and master soap box derby racing divisions, a child 7 to 20 can opt to take the rally point earning route to get to race in Akron Ohio.
To run a program year after year, the local Maine soap box derby local needs to have funding. Local businesses and service club groups sponsor cars and give money to the local to cover expenses.
Drivers are selected to represent the car sponsors and are expected to race fairly and to show good sportsmanship. The local derby winner gets lots of advice and financial support from the Maine community they represent for the big trip west.
Lots of mechanical knowledge is gained when a boy or girl builds and maintains a soap box derby car.
What’s a lock washer, which size bolt do the derby plans call for in the steering or brake assembly? Alignment, aerodynamics and consistency in racing all are big considerations building a derby race car.
The stock and super stock soap box derby race cars after launched, gain speeds of around 30 miles an hour.
Think of what if you were the eight year old racer inside the car you built and trust. Seeing out of the corner of your eye another derby car racer with the same hope to get to the hill bottom first.
No roar of a motor, nothing to top off for a gas tank. Just gravity and the weight of the kid and car are the horsepower. Lubrication, storing the car inside and out of the elements. Not sitting on the car or kicking a tire by mistake and removing a wheel pin clowning around it.
Drivers who build their cars gain pride and respect as they get in the “derby zone”.
The families that field several drivers are the ones that derby rally race and travel to other locations to improve their driving skills.
So today in Maine, where is soap box derby racing? The five locals have distilled down into one. The Northern Maine Sox Box Derby in Houlton is the lone local and the state of Maine racing venue. COVID threw a wrench in the cogs of the last two years like it has a lot of institutions.
June 11th, 2022 is the date for the next Maine state soap box derby race in Houlton ME.
No matter where you or your child racer live in Maine, you are eligible to race and represent your town or city in the big Houlton Maine local race this summer.
Like to sponsor a car? How can you help underwrite the Maine state soap box derby race? Lots of ways and please reach out to the Houlton Maine parks and recreation department. Contact number is 207.532.1310. More who to contact information at the Maine State Soap Box Derby website.
Why is Houlton Maine the still standing venue for soap box derby racing in Vacationland?
We built a hill for racing. Used every year for the June race and spring/fall rallies. A place for snow sliding during Moosestomper’s celebration of winter held each February. Some 4th of Julys, the Derby Hill is used as a fire works launching site.
The derby hill in Houlton Maine is 934′ long and just about everyone in the community had a hand in it’s construction. Hundreds of thousands of yards of gravel and fill.
Aviation grade paving and striping to delineate land one and two, guard rails for safety. Lighting for night rally races with a garage on top of Derby Hill “topside”. The garage with side and front openings to keep racers out of the rain. This garage to house the launch ramp, scales, safety cones for the bottom of the hill run out area.
Racers from around Northern Maine made the Houlton soap box derby local the largest in the nation five years straight.
The June 11th, 2022 soap box derby race in Houlton Maine needs your help. Please share this blog post and think of ways to promote the state of Maine derby race wherever you are located.
“The Thrill of the Hill” awaits in Houlton Maine’s state race and hope you can be some large or small part of it to continue the tradition.
I was lucky enough to be a parent of two local derby race winners who represented the state of Maine in the national one in Akron Ohio.
Going through the All American Soap Box Derby Race Museum in Akron Ohio and walking up the hill can hit you hard. Lots of history and the Houlton Maine race through hard work and from surviving lots of learning curves has fielded national All American top spot and runner up race winners. It takes the “Zoo Crew” and roughly 60 volunteers in the beginning derby races to pull off the local race.
To get an idea of the state of Maine soap box derby program, tap a few past early race videos.
The videos show specially built car trailers and escort vehicles used to tow the derby cars and drives from the bottom to the top of the hill.
Maine Soap Box Derby Racing. The entire family has a role and can race.
Wheel swaps after each “heat” run are done to keep the soap box derby races fair and exciting.
An electronic eye determines who advances to the next pair up heat run. If you are thinking of starting a soap box derby race, remember your hill set up and tear down. As your race course crew ages, that extra work is what can kill a program the quickest.
Nothing eats up more time or tuckers out your soap box derby crew than setting up, tearing down a race course.
Build your own to roll on.
Lot of logistics but think long term, want to keep the soap box derby racing program alive and growing. Rotary Club of Houlton has been a solid partner through the history of our local, from day
one to present. It was Rotary that sponsored cars, helped us build a garage, add lighting and more. Thank you for that support Rotarians!
Love to talk “derby”.
Getting an organization like Rotary, the Elks or area fire departments, local media outlets behind your soap box derby program. It all helps assure the funding, publicity and man power. To add longevity to pull off years of youth soap box derby racing.
Did you race or someone in your family or community was involved in the soap box derby program where you grew up or live now? Get involved and help jump start or give your local soap box derby racing program a big boost.
You have as much fun as the kid who derby races.
The sound of those wheels turning again when another soap box derby race gets underway. That kind of fun does not fade away and it is hard to stop being “Mr Goodwrench” for a girl or boy who loves to derby race on the hill.
Reach out, let’s connect.
I can’t wait to hear the derby car wheels rolling again for another local race. This 2022 Maine soap box derby race is important to get the word out and share. Please do. We want lots of derby racers from around the state of Maine to be in the Houlton Maine race. Again, please share the news of the June 11th, 2022 State of Maine soap box derby race held on Derby Hill in Houlton Maine.