What was the race like when it started? (Find out by reading a letter from John Fraser, Youngstown's first Derby Champion.)
What is the Soap Box Derby:
The Soap Box Derby is a youth racing program which has run nationally since 1934. World Championship finals are held each August at Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio.
The idea of the Soap Box Derby grew out of a photographic assignment of Dayton, Ohio, newsman Myron Scott. He covered a race of boy-built cars in his home community and was so impressed with this event that he acquired a copyright for the idea and began development of a similar program on a national scale.
The first All-American race was held in Dayton in 1934. The following year the race was moved to Akron because of its central location and hilly terrain. In 1936, Akron civic leaders recognized the need for a permanent track site for the youth racing classic and through the efforts of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Derby Downs became a reality.
Each year since, with the exception of the years during World War II, youngsters from throughout the United States and abroad have come to Akron with the racers they have built and driven to victory in their home communities.
The goals of the Soap Box Derby program have not changed since it began in 1934. They are to teach youngsters some of the basic skills of workmanship, the spirit of competition and the perseverance to continue a project once it has begun.
What happens in Akron:
Local champions from each of the Stock, Super Stock and Master division Soap Box Derby races throughout the world come to Akron, Ohio in August each year to compete for scholarships and merchandise prizes in the All-American Soap Box Derby
Upon their arrival, each of the young champions is whisked into Akron with a police escort. As the youngster arrives at the site of the welcoming ceremonies, the Derby band strikes up a tune and an announcer introduces the youngster to the crowd. After signing in on the official entry board, the champions leave for Derbytown, a camp which is their home for the duration of Derby week.
Here, the youngsters make great and lasting friendships while relaxing, swimming, horseback riding, and participating in a variety of sports activities while enjoying the natural surroundings.
As the week progresses the racers are reunited with their cars which have been shipped form home. The cars are weighed and thoroughly inspected to make certain they meet all the safety regulations. The champs get their first look at Derby Downs, a 954 foot racing track designed specifically for Soap Box Derby competition. Each of the contestants gets a trial run down the course to become familiar with the track.
Parents and families of the Derby champs, as well as local Derby officials and fans who visit the All-American, also have a busy week. There are special entertainment programs for families and friends, while Derby officials attend meetings concerning rules and workshops on how to improve their racing programs.
Celebrities from the sports and entertainment world come to Akron to visit the champs at camp and take part in the Derby parade and other festivities.
The week's festivities lead up to Race Day when the anxious youngsters prime their racers for a chance at the winner's circle. Race Day activities kick off with a spectacular track parade, followed by the traditional Oil Can Trophy Race where celebrities compete in oversized Derby Cars.
As in most local competitions, there will be three divisions at the All-American. By the afternoon's end, three new winners will emerge to wear the traditional gold jackets signifying they are the champions of the Stock, Super Stock and Masters divisions of the All-American Soap Box Derby.
All awards are presented on Saturday evening as the champions, their families and friends gather to pay tribute to all the contestants and to present the awards to the winners. In Derby circles, all contestants in the All-American are considered champions because it is believed they have all greatly enriched their lives through the experience they have had in Akron during the Derby Week and the lessons they have learned while building their cars and racing them in local Derby programs back home.
How can I keep my soap box derby racer dry when it rains?
One of the easiest ways is to purchase a twin size fitted waterproof plastic bed sheet (often available through JCPenny's). It's an ideal size and the corners will slip securely over the wheels.