The car may grimace, but this child is having a great time.
This child smiled all the way down the street during the Soapbox Challenge.
Story last updated at 7/9/2014 - 2:11 pm
Each year on July 4, Juneau and Douglas kids hurtle down Saint Anne's Avenue in cars (perhaps) of their own making. Some speed straight down the course in less than 15 seconds. Some take the paths less traveled, bouncing between the tires that line the route. Some look so serious their faces could belong behind Nascar steering wheels. Some look terrified. Regardless, for most that participate, the Soapbox Challenge becomes a tradition.
Corder Janes participated in the event for the first time last summer. He came back for round two this year.
"I started to really like it, so I wanted to do it again," he said.
Eight-year-old Aeryn Locks said it's her fourth year doing the challenge. Next year, maybe she'll be using her own car - she won a raffle at the end of the event of a kit to put one together.
"It's really, really fun," she said.
Her favorite thing is the speed she gains running first down the Dipsticks' ramp, and then down Saint Anne's Avenue.
It's a speed that provided a bit of a challenge for volunteer Corwin Vavalis, who stopped car after car soon after they sped across the finish line. (Some cars come equipped with brakes; kids can also brake themselves with their feet, but Vavalis did a lot of the work for most kids.) He helped the Dipsticks out with their car show, and saw they needed some volunteers for this event.
"It's kind of tough," he acknowledged. Later, he was joined by another volunteer.
A Fourth of July soapbox derby was extremely popular in Juneau in the 1940s and after, with more than half the community attending, according to the Gastineau Historical Society, but interest waned until more recently, when it was restarted.
Gavin Millard, age 10, has been participating for five years.
"It's fun, and it's a good thing to do on July 4th," he said. "It's just fun, because you get down hills fast."
After fives years, Millard has worked out a strategy. "Stay on the right side," he said.
Organizer and former Juneau Dipsticks president Hugh Dilbeck said the Dipsticks have been involved for at least ten years. A car his family built - #24 - has won local, national and international races.
Like many other cars, it was on loan for kids who wanted to participate in the event and didn't have a car of their own.
The Soapbox Challenge, he said, is "simple, number one."
"There are no electronics. There's no computer. Your driving ability determines how fast the car goes," he said.
A main reason many families come out, he said, is that "It's a good family thing to do together."
Normally, Dilbeck said, between 80 and 100 kids participate in the challenge. More than 40 pre-registered on July 3 this year, when they could also do practice runs, he said.
There were three age groups: ages five and six, seven and eight, and nine and 10.
The top three fastest in each age group won trophies, and everyone got a medal. "Everyone goes away a winner," Dilbeck said.
The event looked so fun some adults were wishing they had something comparable. A man who asked he be known only as a "concerned citizen" suggested a boat-building competition, akin to the soapbox challenge, for adults.
The Douglas Soapbox Challenge is sponsored by the Juneau Dipsticks and the Douglas 4th of July Committee. Dilbeck also acknowledged sponsors Alaska Marine Lines, Costco, Admiralty Construction, Chatham Electric and Alaska Towing.
"It takes the community," he said.
"It's fun for the club to do," said current Juneau Dipsticks president Kimberly Vaughan.
For more information on the Juneau Dipsticks, go to http://juneaudipsticks.squarespace.com.
To read an article about the Soapbox Derby as it once was in Juneau, see this article: http://juneauempire.com/stories/0702/out_derbyrace.shtml.