ST. JOHNS, Mich. — After two long years of waiting, the St. Johns' Soap Box Derby has returned. All day long, derby racers competed for a qualifying spot to attend the national championship derby in Akron, Ohio.
The event brought the people of St. Johns together once again, for a day of racing. Race staff volunteer Jason Denovich shared why the return of Soap Box Derby is so important to the community.
“It was really amazing how much excitement it brought to not only the community, but the business owners, the entire downtown itself to actually bring this back," Denovich said. "Getting sponsors, getting kids, getting everybody excited has been awesome. To actually have it come back to downtown St. Johns and relive some of that history especially when we're in a day in age where everything we seem to do is digital, electronics and all that stuff. It’s so cool that we’re getting everybody excited about a family event that is hands on.”
While the community watched from the sideline, competitors raced for their chance to qualify for the national championship race. Lee Smith, director of the St. John’s Soap Box Derby says he had this opportunity 55 years ago.
“Back in 1967 I won the Soap Box Derby. My first year of racing back then because that’s how old you had to be was 11," Smith said. "So, I won and went to Akron.”
Since the derby's return, Smith is excited to see that kids want to participate.
“It really makes me smile to have these kids get out of their houses, leave their devices and do some competition with other kids they’ve never met before,” said Smith.
The derby was separated into two different classes of racers. Racers ages 7 to 14 compete in the Stock Class, while ages 9 to 18 compete in Super Stock Class.
The winner of each division earned a qualifying spot for Akron. While winning a qualifying spot was the grand prize, Denovich says the derby alone is a winning experience.
“Those kids coming down a hill with a thousand people around them, it doesn’t matter who wins or who loses, it’s just exciting and awesome,” Denovich said.
After a long day of racing, Stock Class winner Henry Bancroft and Super Stock Class winner Kayla Gruber have moved on to the national championships in Akron.
For more information on the national championships and Soap Box Derby, you can visit their website.
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