The only cars you’ll see on Lincolnway in Valparaiso, Ind., on June 20th this year will be soap box derby cars, driven by kids and young adults, ages 7-20. Lincolnway will be closed off for 12 hours starting at 6 a.m. from Garfield to Michigan Street, including all of the side streets from Indiana to Jefferson.
Now in its 69th year, the Annual Northwest Indiana Soap Box Derby, hosted by the Valparaiso American Legion Charles Pratt Post 94, will be held on Saturday June 20, 2015, from 8 a.m. – 3p.m. A total of 50 cars will race for the 400 or so spectators who show up to cheer the kids on as they race down Lincolnway, starting at Greenwich, about 1,700 feet at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. Following the race, everyone heads over to the American Legion to enjoy hot dogs and ice cream while the trophies for the day are awarded.
“This is a great event for the family to participate in because the family gets to spend time together assembling the car and participating in a very fun day,” said Mike Bottom, race director and president of the Northwest Indiana Soap Box Derby Corporation, the non-profit corporation set up under the post to run the derby annually. “Plus it teaches the kids sportsmanship and gets them involved in a hands-on sport that doesn’t involve all of the technology they deal with every day,” he added.
When asked how he became involved, Bottom explained that “One of my friend’s kids was racing and got me involved back in 1989 and I have been participating with my girls ever since.” He added that both of his daughters – Angela and Michaelene – have been involved for years and “really enjoy the event every year.” Angela raced for years and now works for the company, Barry’s Photography, that donates professional photos of the event every year. Michaelene, who is 15, participates every year in the Super Kids category.
There are four categories that kids can enter: Stock, Super Stock, Super Kids and Masters. The first three categories are open to kids ages 7-17, while the Maters category extends to age 20 and is a laydown car race. The Super Kids category is the category for handicapped and special needs children. All who have entered can participate in free practice sessions to be held at the post at 4 Monroe Street in Valparaiso on May 2 and May 16 from 9-11 a.m.
“The soap box cars cost about $150 but most kids get companies around town to sponsor them,” Bottom explained. “This way the cost of the soap box car and the $30 entry fee get covered by the company in exchange for having the company logo painted on the car.” Families can obtain a corporate sponsor or go online to the All American Soap Box Derby site at aasbd.com to purchase a soap box car. Volunteers at the American Legion Post 94 will help put the cars together if needed although Bottom advises that they are very simple to put together.” Winners of this race will go on to Akron, Ohio for the international, single elimination race in July.
There are currently openings for all categories. Those interested can contact Mike Bottom at (219) 464.0445. In addition to the $150 fee for the soapbox, there is a $30 registration fee that covers the cost of the T-shirt and trophy (all who enter receive a trophy) and each child’s birth certificate is needed to sign up. Those interested can also mail the registration and fee to The American Legion Post 94, Box 268, Valparaiso, Ind., 46384 or drop it off at the post located at 4 Monroe Street, Valparaiso. More information on the Soap Box Derby event can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/NWINSoapBoxDerby.
The Valparaiso American Legion Post 94 is a non-profit organization, located at 4 Monroe Street in Valparaiso, Ind., that welcomes all veterans from all branches of the Armed Forces, as well as all military personnel serving the country. More information can be found at www.post94.org.