Racers Crowd in for the 69th Annual Soap Box Derby

By: Sam Malkowski Last Updated: June 20, 2015

The Valparaiso Soap Box Derby has officially broken the record on Saturday June 20, 2015 for most consecutive races held in the same city. Saturday marked 69 years and three generations of family tradition and light hearted competition. Winning took a back seat to the pride these kids had in racing the cars they built themselves.

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Mike Bottom of the American Legion was the coordinator for the derby race this year. Like most people here, the derby races have been in his family for years. His daughter got behind the wheel on Saturday.

“It’s your best chance,” he said. “When you’re young, to get in a car and go fast.”

Robin Tudor takes her daughter to the races every year because the two love watching the cars speed past.

“It’s kind of old fashioned. It’s a lot faster this year, better organized,” Tudor, of Valparaiso, explained.

For most of the participants, the derby has been an annual event for even longer.

Jackie Walworth, the mother of two racers, said, “It’s a tradition. My dad did it, and that’s their grandpa.” Her father entered his first race in 1956.

Racer Blake Marshall was there, “To race; to win.”

His father came in 1976 to do the same thing.

The tradition was almost lost a few years ago by a dip in attendance. Bottom said that they have seen their numbers improve with a new generation of offspring with families loyal to the derby. Next year he expects even more, as they change the schedules to accommodate other sports. No one wants to see the derby go.

“You can learn a lot,” Joe Kusiak, another member of the American Legion said. “It has to do with physics, gravity. It’s a lot of learning but it’s a fun event.”

The Legion saved the derby with a partnership that continues to support and encourage young racers.