- Terelle Jerricks
By Joseph Baroud, Contributing Writer
The All-American Soap Box Derby is taking place Aug. 23 and 24 amidst the shadows of Queen Mary.
The event is scheduled to stay open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be two official races where riders can accumulate points towards being invited to race in a championship in Akron, Ohio 2015.
The Queen Mary, in an attempt to create some liveliness in their corners and better serve the community, approached Brian Graham, regional director at All-American Soap Box Derby and offered to fund a race which would be held adjacent to the Queen Mary. The ship continues looking for new ways to attract and connect the people of Long Beach and abroad.
Graham is excited that the sport’s popularity seems to be on the rise recently. He said that registration for this event has risen the last year and a half.
Graham also said the race gives an opportunity to children and adults to come together and build these cars and race them. He says that it offers participants a chance to bond and build cohesiveness, not just between racers, but all who are present around them.
“Having an event focused on children and their adult companions is a way of serving the community,” Graham said.
The All-American Soap Box Derby is a national sports organization that was founded in 1934. The The All-American Soap Box Derby is divided into 12 regions, with each region representing four to five states throughout the nation. The Long Beach race is part of Region 2, which represents Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah.
There are three car classes that each have a minimum required age participants must be to race in said class. These age groups are split like this: 7-9; 9-17; 11-17. Every racer competes to earn points so that by the end of the season, they’ll have a spot in the championship race Akron, Ohio.
Beside seeing who can drive faster and feeding the racers’ competitive spirit, Graham stressed the more important lessons–are lessons that children will carry with them for the rest of their life.
“There’s so many wonderful things about this sport that far supersede the idea of coming out with just a trophy,” Graham said. “We’re talking about long-term growth, a long-term understanding, long-term empowerment of the person.”
The core values of the American Soap Box Derby are teamwork and hands-on learning. The derby is a natural supporter of STEM or, science; technology; engineering; mathematics education. All racing teams have to design, build, test, and race their vehicles for competition.
You’re teaching kids “independence, self-reliance [and] confidence,” Graham said. “Then we throw in learning a bunch of math, science and technology programs.”
Nine year old Veronica Stagnaro from Danville, California has been racing for a year and a half. Her interest in the Derby stemmed from her father’s love of the sport. She said she likes the challenge that it brings and making new friends through common grounds.
Stagnaro has won four races this year, and hopes to reach the championship race in Akron. She already has a trophy on her mantel from her win at the Silicon Valley Local race in 2013.
“Competition is rough. The kids I race against are all good drivers,” Veronica said. “Anyone of us could win if we drive a good race.”
The soapbox derby is one of the few sports in which boys and girls compete on the same field. When asked about how she felt about competing against boys, Stagnaro said she didn’t even think about it.
Chris Harris, co-regional director has been involved with the derby for nine years. He became involved when his son, who was 14 at the time, came home disappointed after losing to two younger girls. His younger sister who was 9 at the time heard the story and decided she wanted to take it up herself. Eventually, she was invited to the world championships five times and placed second once out of those races.
“The derby races are truly the greatest amature racing events in the world,” Harris said. “It brings families together and gives kids a chance to compete on a level playing field with cars that they have built and tuned themselves. Nothing compares to the feeling of winning a race in a car that you built and raced yourself.”
Soapbox derby fans can catch the show without admission. Visit the link below for further details.